New Jersey Motorsports Park
Heartbreaking Runner-Up Finish at New Jersey
Angelelli, Taylor Battle Back After Getting Spun Early To Almost Pull Off Rolex Series Win
Three times in the last four years, Max Angelelli and the SunTrust Racing team have had to settle for second-place finishes at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville to go with a solid third-place finish here last year. Sunday’s runner-up finish in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series American Red Cross 250, however, was probably the biggest heartbreaker of all on the 2.5-mile, 14-turn road circuit located about an hour’s drive south of Philadelphia.
Like they had for the last five Rolex Series races, now, the veteran Angelelli and his 21-year-old co-driver Ricky Taylor had the car to beat this weekend in the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing. Taylor qualified on the pole for the fifth race in a row, and he led 24 of the first 26 laps despite extremely hot and humid conditions with the heat index registering nearly 110 degrees.
But, on lap 27, defending series co-champion and current points leader Scott Pruett and his No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley gave Taylor a bump from behind that spun the SunTrust car around and off-course. The contact was unintentional, but it was enough to cost Taylor four positions on the racetrack and cost Pruett and the Ganassi team a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact that dropped the No. 01 car even further back in the order.
Interestingly enough, both the Ganassi and SunTrust teams were able to weather their respective storms and fought their way back to the front to finish 1-2, with Angelelli following Pruett across the finish line by 3.806 seconds. The difference-maker turned out to be a planned, third pit stop while leading for a splash of fuel and fresh tires by the SunTrust team 18 laps from the finish, with just less than 30 minutes to go in today’s two-hour, 45-minute race. The stop turned out to hand the lead for good to Pruett, who actually would have needed a final splash-and-go fuel stop of his own had it not been for a caution with 25 minutes to go that enabled the No. 01 car to make it to the end.
“It’s great to finish on the podium, but we really want to win,” said Angelelli, who finished second here in the SunTrust car with Michael Valiante in 2008 and with Brian Frisselle in 2009, and third here with Taylor last year. “We’re 50 percent good with it, but the other 50 percent, we’re not happy without a win to show for our effort today. I think the team did really well because we had to fight back from far behind. It was because we were in a place where we were not supposed to be, thanks to Ricky getting spun early in the race. But I think the team made really good calls during the race. The strategy was perfect. That yellow close to the end is what really saved the Ganassi team.”
After getting spun by Pruett on lap 27, just 35 minutes into the race, Taylor was able to fight his way back into the lead with a SunTrust Racing machine that continued to run a majority of the fastest laps on the track. He was back in front 36 laps after the incident, inheriting first place from Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley when Fogarty pitted on lap 63. Taylor led for another 12 laps, giving him a race-high 36 laps led on the day among all drivers, before he pitted on lap 75 to turn things over to Angelelli. The Italian resumed in fifth and patiently powered his way into the lead on lap 95 with 35 minutes to go. He pitted four laps later for that final splash of fuel and, most importantly, four fresh tires on a racetrack notoriously rough on tire wear.
“Considering how much action there was today, it was a very good effort by the SunTrust guys,” said Taylor, whose fifth consecutive pole position earned Saturday was the seventh of his Rolex Series career. “As always, Max put us in the position to win, again. He managed to get by the 99. The 01 was very strong today, but if Max would’ve had a couple more laps, he might have been able to eat into that gap a little more and maybe we would’ve been a step higher on the podium. I was doing my best. I’ve learned a lot from these guys and I was applying what they’ve taught me the last couple of years. You don’t want to let them get a run on you coming out of the corners, so I was just doing my best to apply some of those things I’ve learned to keep people behind me. Scott (Pruett) had just gotten around the 90 car and he hadn’t been behind me up until that lap, really, and I was struggling a little bit. The hit was not intentional, by any means. It was just one of those things.”
The victory by Pruett and his co-driver Memo Rojas was the fifth of the season for the Ganassi team. It opened up a 29-point lead in the championship over Angelelli and Taylor and the SunTrust team, who are second in the championship with three races remaining. Fogarty and his Gainsco teammate Alex Gurney are third in the championship, 16 points behind the SunTrust team.
“I can’t say the incident with Pruett is what cost us the race,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “The bottom line was, we’re all struggling with tires, and we probably struggled a little bit more than everybody else and I don’t really know why. The team did a good job. The strategy was good. Max drove his heart out, there, at the end. You know, those 01 guys, they never make a mistake – not that we made any mistakes. It’s just how it panned out in the end. I’m happy for the team and everybody. These conditions, with the tires and stuff, I’m pretty happy with a second-place finish today.”
By: suntrust racing