New Jersey Motorsports Park
Perfection an Essential Part of Winning as SunTrust Team Heads to New Jersey
If pole positions and laps led earned championship points, then Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor and the rest of the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing would be knocking on the door of their second GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship with just four races left to go in 2011.
As it is, they are in second place in the season-long points battle, a modest 26 markers behind defending series champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley heading into Sunday’s American Red Cross 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville despite four consecutive pole positions, two wins and a pair of third-place finishes in the last four Rolex Series events. During that span, Angelelli, the veteran Italian, and Taylor, the 21-year-old mechanical engineering major from the University of Central Florida, have been the dominant duo, leading a hefty 350 of 510 race laps contested for a whopping 69 percent.
Their back-to-back, dominant wins at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., on Memorial Day and five days later in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International certainly helped close the margin in the championship chase. But podium finishes of third – as proud of an achievement as they normally can be – for the SunTrust team at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., the past two events have allowed the margin to open back up to 26 points as the Ganassi duo posted a win and a runner-up finish.
At Road America, the difference between winning and third place was simply a matter of strategy thanks to the rain-marred opening hour of the race while, at Laguna Seca two weekends ago, a malfunction on the left-front tire change during the SunTrust team’s final pit stop cost a precious 10 extra seconds and ruined another thoroughly dominating afternoon. Even three-time series champion Pruett showed he could be human as he overshot his pit box on his final stop and essentially cost his team its fifth victory of the season. The beneficiary of the SunTrust and Ganassi miscues at Laguna Seca was the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, which parlayed its first error-free race of the season into its first Rolex Series win since last July.
That’s precisely what it takes to win on the hotly competitive GRAND-AM circuit these days – perfection. And the SunTrust team will settle for nothing less as it chases its third Rolex Series win of the year on the 2.25-mile, 14-turn road circuit in South Jersey.
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
After a pair of wins at Lime Rock and the Watkins Glen Six-Hour, you came back with a pair of podium finishes at Road America and Laguna Seca and lost some ground in the championship. What do you have to do to get back into that winning mode?
“First of all, it’s very important to qualify well, which we have continued to do with four consecutive pole positions, now. Like we saw at Road America and Laguna Seca, the series is so competitive that you must have the perfect race to win. The team that has everything go right, and has nothing go wrong, is probably going to be the one that wins, like the Gainsco team did at Laguna. Ricky kept the lead for his entire stint, and I kept the lead through my first pit stop. But then, we had the wheel-nut problem on my second stop, and (Scott) Pruett had a problem on his pit stop, so the Gainsco team was able to capitalize and win the race. We have the team and the drivers and the equipment to win every race. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect every race, but we showed that we can do it at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen, and we can certainly keep doing it again and again. I hope to start winning again at New Jersey.”
Your last-lap pass of Ryan Dalziel at Road America for the final podium position was questioned, as was your late-race pass of Scott Pruett and your pass of Dalziel for the final podium spot at Laguna Seca. Do you feel you’re being watched very closely?
“What happened at Road America was a racing incident. The pass in the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca is not even worth talking about. It was ruled to be a clean pass. On the pass of Pruett, he forced me down onto the pit road exit on the restart. I had nowhere else to go. I was so afraid of touching another car for fear of being penalized that I had no choice but to move down to the pit road exit. But I did not improve my position there, but two turns later. I held my position and I did not complete the pass until turns two and three, not in the pit lane. But I still had to give back the position. I would like to think that everybody is being watched very closely, but sometimes I feel like the interpretation of what happens on the racetrack is so far from reality that it’s difficult to understand what we can and cannot do. It can be very annoying.”
How do you foresee the race unfolding at New Jersey this weekend?
“New Jersey is a track that I like very much. It’s fast and it’s slow. You really have everything and it is very challenging. The problem is, especially now with the things that have been going on, is that it is very difficult to overtake people there. There is definitely a lot of contact that goes on there. It is inevitable because the racetrack is so narrow. So every move we make, we will have to wonder afterward whether it will be penalized. I think the race is going to be really interesting to try and figure out who will win. We have had good finishes each of our first three times there but we haven’t won, yet. It will be interesting to see how the Ford teams respond to the new rule (an additional 500 rpm). They will be faster in the straights, so that is another variable to the equation. They also took away the mandatory pit stop before the 45-minute mark, so that will mean strategy will be a lot more interesting, too.”
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
How would you describe the New Jersey track, and what challenges will you face this weekend?
“It’s another one of the really technical, high-downforce tracks where our car works really well. One challenge at New Jersey is tire wear. We struggled with it last year – all the teams struggled with it last year – so it’ll be a factor in the race. It’ll be a matter of saving tires from the beginning to the end of each run and making sure you have the newest tires you can for the last 30 minutes of the race. Really, it’ll all come down to finding that balance between how fast you can push and not destroying the tires. It’s kind of frustrating as a driver, but when you get to the last five or 10 laps of your stints, you’re pretty happy if you’ve done it right. That’s when it really pays off. Or, if you ended pushing too hard for too long during a run, you really pay the price.”
You’ve gotten into an incredible qualifying groove by earning the pole at the last four races. Do you think you can make it five in a row at New Jersey?
“It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it? It says a lot about where we are as a team this year with two wins and four podium finishes in that time. We were second on the grid at New Jersey last year, and second in ’08, so our car is definitely quick there. This year, the SunTrust car has been greatly improved over this point last year, so we have every reason to believe we’ll be right there again this year.”
Your co-driver has certainly gotten a lot of attention with his late-race passes at Road America and Laguna Seca. Your thoughts on that?
“I think they seem to be focusing quite a bit on Max, lately. I don’t know if it’s the 10 car in general, or just a matter of Max being under the microscope, specifically. Max’s specialty has always been, if we’re not in a position to win, he finds a way to put us into a position to win. Contact is just part of the series and, at the very least, we’ve got a budding rivalry building between Max and Ryan Dalziel. Even I got caught up in it a little bit when I watched the TV broadcast of the Laguna Seca race. If nothing else, it’s great for the fans.”
What do you think of the new rule eliminating the mandatory pit stop before the 45-minute mark of each race?
“It’s nice because, normally, my stint is between 30 and 45 minutes and Max does the rest. Now, I can drive a little more and Max gets a little bit of a break by not having to do a full, two-hour stint. It’ll be interesting to see how different teams interpret the strategy and how the race unfolds this weekend.”
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
You’re headed back to New Jersey, where the SunTrust team has been strong each year. Your thoughts on this weekend?
“New Jersey, I think, has been fairly good for us. One thing I know is it’s very hard on the tires, but everybody will be in the same boat as far as that goes. We can only do the best with what we have, when you get down to it. Ricky and Max tell me we’ll be good there, so that makes me feel confident. It’s going to be very hot up there this weekend, so that will have an effect on tire wear, too.”
You dominated the race, once again, at Laguna Seca two weekends ago but only had a third-place finish to show for it. What does that do for your outlook this weekend in New Jersey?
“It just makes us all the more focused on perfection, because that’s precisely what it takes to win. We had perfect races at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen and it paid off with wins. At Road America, strategy didn’t work out in our favor. At Laguna Seca, we had a malfunction on the left-front tire change that cost us 10 seconds and, ultimately, the race win. You just have to execute on every single detail of the race, like we did at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. As far as I’m concerned, we were perfect at an incredibly difficult race – the Watkins Glen Six-Hour. So, we know we are more than capable of doing it again this weekend at New Jersey.”
By: suntrust racing