Daytona II: SunTrust Racing preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2008) -- A brand new race car signals a new beginning for the No 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) as it kicks off the second half of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season with ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2008) -- A brand new race car signals a new beginning for the No 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) as it kicks off the second half of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season with Thursday night's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

The first seven stops on the 14-race campaign have been eventful, to say the least, for SunTrust Racing and WTR. They kicked things off on this very track with a star-studded two-car effort at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Regular co-driver Max Angelelli and team-owner Wayne Taylor introduced new full-time co-driver Michael Valiante to the SunTrust Racing family and Taylor's 18-year-old son Ricky to the world of big-time racing, and the SunTrust quartet drove its way through various mechanical and electrical predicaments for a top-five finish.

Alongside the No. 10 SunTrust team for the Rolex 24 was the No. 9 Toshiba Pontiac Riley of Penske-Taylor Racing, featuring none other than Helio Castroneves, Kurt Busch and Ryan Briscoe behind the wheel. Under the tutelage of Roger Penske and Wayne Taylor, that high-profile driving trio brought home a podium finish despite overheating and other issues of their own.

In the days, weeks and months since, SunTrust Racing has endured a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows that it's doing everything in its power to smooth out considerably over the latter half of the 2008 Rolex Series season. Among the highs was the stellar debut of the all-new Dallara chassis, which sported a striking, new tangerine-based SunTrust paint scheme and which Valiante qualified on the front row at Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway. Even though the new-from-the-ground-up race car arrived on the scene with virtually no meaningful on-track testing, it showed its tremendous potential by leading laps at three of its first four events and starting from the pole in only its third race at Virginia International Speedway (VIR) near Alton. It seemed the only thing that could slow or stop the new car's rapid emergence was an eerie series of on-track incidents, none of which were Angelelli's or Valiante's doing, at Homestead, Mexico City and VIR.

The lowest of the lows came May 19 when, on its way back to WTR's Indianapolis race shop from Monterey, Calif., the team transporter and all of its contents, including the original Dallara chassis, burned to the ground on I-40 in Texas. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from the Grand-Am community, the team was re-equipped with tools, a transport trailer and spare parts that enabled it to dust off the Riley chassis that finished fifth at Daytona and make it to the very next race just 19 days later at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Angelelli surprisingly qualified on the pole at Watkins Glen, and he and Valiante and the team powered their way to a podium finish in the six-hour endurance marathon.

On Monday of race week at Mid-Ohio two weekends ago, where Angelelli and Valiante had to settle for a top-10 in the Riley after flirting with their second-consecutive podium in the rain-soaked event, the new Dallara arrived at the WTR shop and the process of outfitting it for Thursday night's debut immediately began in earnest.

Thursday, the second coming of the SunTrust Dallara comes at a track where SunTrust has enjoyed some of its most shining moments since joining the Rolex Series in 2004. Taylor and Angelelli co-drove to victory in July of that inaugural season, and they followed with a dominating drive to victory in the 2005 Rolex 24, kicking off a dominating season that culminated in the Rolex Series championship with five wins, 10 podiums and three poles in 14 events. In nine total starts at Daytona, SunTrust Racing has scored two victories, five podium finishes and eight top-fives, including the runner-up finish from the pole in the 2005 Brumos Porsche 250.

Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:

You're back in a Dallara at Grand-Am's most high-profile track and one where you've had great success. Are you excited?

"I feel ready to go. We always go to Daytona with a lot of expectations because we've always done well there. I feel the same about this weekend. We believe in the Dallara more than ever. We believe it's a good car, a fast car. Our new Dallara looks even better than the first one because we've had more time to learn about it and we could put all the updates right on the car while we were building it. So the car looks really good, and I'm looking forward to Thursday night's race a lot."

Being that it's a one-day show and, once again you are debuting a brand new car without any substantial testing, are you concerned about the time crunch on Thursday?

"It's really not as bad as you might think because we still have over two hours of practice before qualifying. That's almost as much as we have on a normal race weekend, and it's plenty of time to make changes. I personally believe that we can be as fast as the fastest cars out there. I'm not sure exactly what part of the track we will have an advantage and where we will be at a disadvantage. The important thing is we are equipped, once again, to make changes on the car. People don't realize that in our last two races with the Riley, we couldn't change shocks, we couldn't change springs, even something as simple as changing a gurney, we couldn't do because we did not have those pieces that we needed. We just put fuel in the car, we put tires on the car, and we cleaned the car. And, still, we had two races where everyone definitely knew we were there. It will be a great feeling to be more like a normal race effort with different options in our set-up. I'm really looking forward to it."

Michael Valiante, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:

You've strung together a couple of relatively strong race weekends, albeit not with the Dallara. Are you feeling pretty good about heading to Daytona this week with the new car?

"I'm really looking forward to it now that we have another Dallara and we've had back-to-back races where, as a team, we've gotten some pretty good rhythm going. We're gradually building our inventory back up again, which will make us better and better as we go along -- things like shocks and springs and spare components. The new car should be good, again. They've beefed up some things to make it stronger for the longer duration events. Otherwise, there's not much that can be done because once the car is approved, you have to stick to the guidelines that were set."

Knowing what you know about the previous Dallara at the four tracks you raced it, what might you expect from it at Daytona?

"Probably the main thing to go off of is how the other two Dallaras in the series (the Nos. 77 and 47) have been doing. They've been getting quicker and quicker each race, so that's very encouraging. I think, overall, we'll be solid at Daytona. The Dallara hasn't been the quickest out there in terms of straight-line speed, so it will be a challenge on the long straights. But I do feel we'll be very strong in the infield road course segments."

How quickly do you think you and Max will be able to get up to speed in the new car?

"Believe it or not, before we even get to the performance of the car, one of the toughest things will be redoing the seat to get both of us comfortable, again. The process involves molding the seat and then shaping it and working with it until it's just right. I stopped by the shop to work on this after the Mid-Ohio race. There's a lot to it, like making sure the headrest is just right, the belts, the steering height, the pedals. It's a long, involved process. We'll continue to do some fine-tuning on it as we go along."

Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team:

What kind of feelings are you experiencing as you prepare to go to Daytona with a brand new race car?

"Obviously, we'll be debuting the new car, and there's a lot of emotion that goes with that. Kind of like we experienced at Homestead the first time around, but perhaps a lot more because of all that has gone on since then. We're starting with a clean sheet of paper and hopefully all the bad stuff is behind us, now. I'm not sure, performance-wise, what to expect, really. Clearly, there's been an incredible amount of attention to detail on the new car. We learned a lot during the first four races we ran the Dallara, and we learned a lot about it especially as a result of the accident in Mexico. It's just so nice to have a brand new car, really. And it's nice to debut it at Daytona because it's my home race, and it's an important market for SunTrust. And it'll be good to see how it does on that track because, in a lot of ways, the 24-hour race is just around the corner, again."

Do you have any idea of how it will do at Daytona this weekend?

"We really don't know what to expect. I don't want to speculate on this one. So far, the one thing we found about the car is it really likes high-speed corners. So we think it should be pretty good at Daytona. A key factor will be how fast it can go down the straightaways. At some tracks with the previous car, it definitely wasn't the fastest on the straights. But, we're going to be okay. I don't want to say too much, really. The guys, as I've been saying for so long, now, have been working incredibly hard to get us ready for this next race. Once again, they deserve a great result."

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Kurt Busch , Helio Castroneves , Wayne Taylor , Michael Valiante , Max Angelelli , Ryan Briscoe , Roger Penske