AIN'T NO SUNSHINE (thus far) LET THE SUN(Trust) SHINE IN The subject of sportscar's best-ever drivers recently arose in a conversation with a longtime, successful (by any racing measure) sportscar team owner. Out of the blue, he said, "Wayne...
AIN'T NO SUNSHINE (thus far)
LET THE SUN(Trust) SHINE IN
The subject of sportscar's best-ever drivers recently arose in a conversation with a longtime, successful (by any racing measure) sportscar team owner.
Out of the blue, he said, "Wayne Taylor is the smoothest driver I've ever seen on a racetrack. He'd go through turns with a rhythm unmatched by anyone and still turn the fastest lap, hands down, with the least-abused car. He easily was his generation's best yet too often underrated driver."
A listener was just short of stunned. Not because he didn't think much differently of Taylor, now owner of the SunTrust No. 10 Pontiac-Dallara, but that the comment came from a guy who few - especially those in a sportscar paddock - would hardly think of as being one of Taylor's casual friends, much less a "good buddy."
A favorable measure of respect taken by an outsider of a particular camp often trumps a similar thought offered by someone friendly to that camp.
Taylor drove in two of the SunTrust's four races in Barber Motorsports Park's Bradley Arant Porsche 250, in which Taylor and his driving partner, Max Angelelli, finished no worse than second (2004), winning the other (2005).
In four starts at the Bradley Arant, the SunTrust team, as a whole, hasn't qualified worse than fourth and has yet to score anything worse than a top-3 finish.
As Taylor started stepping from the SunTrust car in 2006, two other drivers would team with the still-driving Max "The Axe" Angelelli (who, when one thinks about it, really fits the profile of a road-rage driver: mannerly and almost docile when not in the car; intense and angry - especially that others would dare be on "his" track - when behind a race-car steering wheel).
Jan Magnussen in 2006 started third and finished second, while Memo Gidley in 2007 scored a fourth and third, respectively, in the Bradley Arant.
Did you ever have to teach someone something you've done a thousand times?
Containing oneself from self-detonation while watching someone fumble what you could've accomplished blindfolded can easily produce a string of incomplete sentences and guttural utterances that, to casual observers, also can quickly render the expert an apparent fool.
Surely, most folks can relate as to how Taylor might now feel going into this weekend's Rolex Sports Car Series (presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16) race at Barber.
Here's a guy who came out of his involuntarily ended Intrepid GTP days (in the 1980's) saying, "Never again will I entrust someone else with my destiny" to watching from the sidelines as Angelelli and 2008 co-driver Michael Valiante try to drive the SunTrust Pontiac-Dallara into a first-place finish at race end - something they've yet to do anywhere in 2008.
The team and Taylor having already this season suffered hellfire and brimstone, one does wonder what plague might next visit the SunTrust car.
Perhaps it'll be something like washing sticky champagne from a drenched, winning race car and its drivers' suits. If so, there likely won't be enough champagne in Birmingham to quench that crew's celebratory thirst.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON
About three decades ago, NASCAR officials directed team owner and driver Richard Childress to NASCAR's hauler.
Childress was flat-out told he'd be "better off" to be a team owner with a driver rather than being a team owner and driver.
Though bristling at the thought someone else would, um, suggest what should be done with his team, Childress nonetheless complied.
Since then, Childress has ridden one hellacious rollercoaster ride, having many incredible highs and experiencing one low unlike any other.
Talking to Childress in 2002, it was pretty clear he at the time was simply going through the motions, and understandably so. To this day this journalist can see Childress' frozen-in-time face, drained of the vitality and fire that had previously driven him, whether in a race car seat or owning it.
He somehow stuck it out, was reinvigorated with a hard-charging Jeff Burton (and, later, Clint Bowyer) and, at the Aug. 7-8 Watkins Glen Rolex and Sprint Cup series races, Childress will turn yet another page in his life's book.
Expect to see Childress-Howard Racing field its Crawford DP08 at the Friday Rolex Series show, giving the CHM team and Crawford Composites a chance to start readying in earnest their Daytona Prototype team for a full-season 2009 run.
Longtime Crawford test pilot Andy Wallace (spouse of team manager and 2nd-assistant chief bottle-washer Katie Crawford Wallace) will be in the seat and though his co-driver driver isn't yet certain, Dario Franchitti - recently of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates - often has been mentioned.
Expect something concrete to be released at any time.
SPEAKING OF THE CRAWFORD
The skinny has it that the new Crawford's front clip is "neutral," the meaning of which - at least as it is configured from the Crawford factory - is that it won't "plant" while turning into a corner.
Seeking a means to improve its turning is one way to sum the motivation behind a couple of dive planes suddenly appearing on Alex Job Racing's No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche-Crawford's front fenders just as qualifying started for June's Watkins Glen Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen - and resulted in following "official" hassles for The Ruby.
Early in my business life, learned was: "If one can't dazzle with brilliance; baffle with B.S."
Not taking the preceding to heart and noting, frankly so, this writer for now hasn't a clue as to what this Crawford stuff is all about, Alfie (and it's one of the few times yours truly will admit such. Enjoy it).
But it certainly does mean at least one thing . . .
MORPHING TO A RILEY
After only two races, Alex Job Racing and his No. 23 Ruby Tuesday team have ditched its recently acquired Crawford Gen-2 DP and moved to a Riley.
Though not an ordinary practice of race teams, one can grasp AJR's reasoning in the light of a few facts, none of which are directly connected to the new Gen-2 Crawford DP.
First, the numbers just don't lie. Sure, one can make what they wish of statistics, but in the world of racing one either crosses the finish line first or doesn't - it's that simple - and that's the "first" number which most concerns Alexander Koenraad Job.
Simple, too, is the Riley record since Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix (y mi amigo Jose) Sabates fielded Riley MkXI chassis No. 001, powered by Lexus, at the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona (that specific car has morphed into the very capable Ford-powered No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold Riley of Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins).
Additionally, and simply so, the Riley Technologies-designed chassis has been nothing short of some owners' Rock of Gibraltar. Sure, other chassis builders are doing all they can to displace the Riley from a rather lofty winning perch - and they might.
However, doing so will take an evolutionary leap in car design - and a few years being there - to ever match the Riley's Rolex Series DP win count, presently hovering around 70 Daytona Prototype race wins.
At no time facing fewer than three, and often four or more (if one counts the variations) competing car-constructor designs, the Riley's win count is nothing short of stupendous.
Though it's relevant to cite the number of Riley chassis as having statistical influence on the win-column's number, it's also true the Riley would've never achieved those numbers had the car been incapable of doing so in the first place.
With Alex Job Racing's abrupt abandonment of its previous chassis, such is a gutsy move on AJR's part because out-the-door also goes every note taken at every race track; every suspension setting that worked or didn't work; fuel-mileage computations; tire wear observations and more.
With AJR's change - actually a fulfillment of serious consideration given to such change at the end of 2007 - the team has all but sang from the highest rafters its belief the "tried and true" Riley will produce results, and quickly so.
Thus, the question now follows: If AJR can't do it with a Riley, can AJR do it at all?
For what it's worth, one has to give Job a lot of credit for doing what he believes best for him and Ruby Tuesday, believing the team and sponsor now have a better-than-reasonable shot at not just a podium finish, but on occupying the topmost part of that podium.
Commonplace in history are team owners who have done only what was legally necessary to fulfill an expiring contract not expected to be renewed. Job's been around this business long enough to have seen those owners at work - or non-work, actually.
Yet, even knowing that Ruby Tuesday likely won't return in 2009, Job still is digging deep and is going for the jugular.
Job would say something like, "Well, what I'm doing is only the proper, honorable thing to do for a company that's stood by me through thick and thin."
Easier is describing Job: He's a racer's racer.
A NEEDED DISTRACTION
Evidently not too soon in coming, Jimmie Johnson appears headed for some DP seat time with Christiano da Matta in the No. 98 Bob Stallings (GAINSCO or Lowe's?) Pontiac-Riley at The Glen II.
The diversion might be just what the Sprint Cup champ needs to momentarily take his mind off this season's Sprint Cup championship pressures, helping propel him into a late-season Sprint Car charge.
At a recent race Johnson-camp insiders noted the driver so enjoys Daytona Prototype racing that he'll someday do it full time.
Honestly, such may only come after his Sprint Cup career concludes, but Mike Shank Racing's Mark Patterson (No. 60, Westfield Insurance Ford-Riley) has done a pretty good job racing of late and he's just about as old as Job (as in Alex Job).
I'm starting to get into trouble, here. Such is not particularly new, but I'll at least escape a lot more hassle if I just stop now.
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsports.com