By SunTrust Racing
Solid Podium for SunTrust at Road America
Angelelli, Taylor Fight Hard for Third Place, Get it on Tough, Last-Lap Pass
For as bizarre of a two-hour race as it was, the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor will gladly take their third-place finish in Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and move on to the next one.
They came in riding a streak of back-to-back wins from the pole at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, promptly captured their third consecutive pole here, yesterday, and that’s about when things started getting strange.
First, the 21-year-old Taylor, who admittedly was looking to control a deliberate pace when he took the green from the pole, was beaten to the start-finish line by outside-front-row starter Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley. Fogarty’s move was allowed to happen without penalty, and Taylor was forced to settle in behind the No. 99 Chevy for the opening four-plus laps of the race.
“We were running a little more downforce than they were and I wanted to shorten the long, front straight as much as I could so he (Fogarty) couldn’t get a run,” said Taylor, who earned his third consecutive and fifth career pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon. “So, wanting to go as late as I could, I tried to go right at the (restart) cones, and by the time I got to the cones, Fogarty was gone, already. That set us back a little bit for the first run.”
That first run slowed down considerably when, on lap five, a heavy accident involving a pair of GT-class competitors in turn one brought out the caution flag for the next 13 tours of the 4-mile, 14-turn circuit. Taylor, who gave up second place when he pitted to top off the SunTrust Chevrolet’s fuel tank on lap six, led two of those 13 caution laps as teams began to employ various strategies and ventured in and out of the pits during the 50-minute caution period.
Ultimately, Taylor was the leader when the race finally went back to green with less than an hour remaining in the two-hour, timed event, and held the point until pitting on lap 24 with a little more than 40 minutes remaining for four fresh tires, fuel, and to hand the SunTrust car over to Angelelli for the final sprint to the finish.
Angelelli resumed in fifth place behind the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Scott Pruett, who had already taken over for his co-driver Memo Rojas midway through the long caution period, and Alex Gurney, who took over from Fogarty in the Gainsco Chevrolet just one lap prior to the SunTrust car’s final stop. Two cars ahead of Pruett, Gurney and Angelelli still needed to pit.
While Angelelli was just 11.5 seconds behind Pruett when he joined the race, a worsening oversteer condition made it difficult to gain ground on Pruett and Gurney, while the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley of Ryan Dalziel was applying heavy pressure on Angelelli from behind. On lap 31, with 30 minutes remaining in the race, Dalziel was all over the back of Angelelli heading down the long, front straight and all the way around the fast, right-hand sweeping turn one. By turn six, Dalziel was able to slip past the SunTrust car and took over third place while Pruett and Gurney were gradually pulling away to a sizeable lead.
Angelelli kept Dalziel in his sights for most of the final half-hour of the race without any more threats from behind. He began to close the gap in the final two laps and, after taking the white flag, he made a bold and determined move on the back section of the course and got back by Dalziel to take the final podium spot on the last lap. Consequently, there was side-by-side contact during the pass.
“Our goal became to finish in the top-three,” said Angelelli, whose podium finish was the 52nd of his Rolex Series career. “I had a chance to overtake the (No.) 8 and I took it. I got by him, and here we are. That’s all there really is to say about it.”
Pruett went on to win for his and Rojas’ fourth victory of the season, while Gurney brought the Gainsco Chevrolet home in the runner-up spot. With the finish, Pruett and Rojas opened up their lead in the point standings to 24 over the SunTrust team with five races remaining.
“The track was really rough on tires,” Taylor said. “We had a good one-lap-wonder car that was certainly fast enough to get the pole, but we ended up having to work really hard to try and save the tires for the duration of a fuel run while the 01 was really tough today. I think we did the best we could during a tough weekend.”
“We had a disappointing day, when you get down to it,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “The (No.) 99 jumped the start and Grand-Am, unfortunately, didn’t agree with it. Even Memo Rojas was on the radio saying Fogarty jumped the start. Then again, I didn’t see exactly what happened, and that’s not what cost us the race. Obviously, the 99 and us pulled away a bit at the beginning, and then there was a big accident and a long yellow that basically messed everything up. Did we make all the right decisions? I’m not sure. But we ended up on the podium, which is a good thing. The disappointing part is, we wanted to gain on the Ganassi team and, instead, they unfortunately gained on us. So, now we’ve just got to prepare to go to Laguna Seca and see what we can do there.”
Next up for the Rolex Series competitors is the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on Saturday, July 8 at 5:30 p.m. EDT.