Like its big-screen baseball counterpart Field of Dreams, Iowa Speedway rose from the cornfields just a short time ago and began staging major racing events that, in the spirit of "if you build it, they will come," have drawn thousands upon ...
Like its big-screen baseball counterpart Field of Dreams, Iowa Speedway rose from the cornfields just a short time ago and began staging major racing events that, in the spirit of "if you build it, they will come," have drawn thousands upon thousands of spectators from throughout the upper Midwest in this, its first season of existence.
Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen, co-drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing, would like nothing better than to be the first to see their names etched into the very first Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series winner's trophy ever awarded at the new facility after Friday night's Iowa Speedway 400-kilometer race for Daytona Prototypes.
That would put Angelelli and Magnussen in the company of other first-time victors at the quaint, 7/8-mile tri-oval that this weekend transforms into a nine-turn, 1.3-mile road circuit. They would join names like June's IRL IndyCar Series winner Dario Franchitti, June's ARCA event winner Frank Kimmel, and May's USAC Silver Crown winner Bobby East.
Most importantly, a victory in Friday night's 400-kilometer, 2-hour race would continue inching Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust team back closer to the lead in the Rolex Series driver and team championships, both of which they held by a somewhat comfortable 16-point margin back in May after starting the season with four consecutive podium finishes, including the new Wayne Taylor Racing organization's first victory in Alton, Va.
Last week, Angelelli and French co-driver Jonathan Cochet rallied for a remarkable, if not improbable, runner-up finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway after a dead battery in qualifying sent them to the very back of the starting grid. It was a thrilling performance that turned around a three-race slide in the championship standings despite finishes by Angelelli and Cochet of third at Watkins Glen and fourth at Mid-Ohio in June.
Angelelli and Magnussen ride again at Iowa after sports car racing veteran and former Formula 1 test driver Cochet did a solid job of filling in for Magnussen at the last three Rolex Series events. Magnussen co-drove the No. 10 SunTrust car at the first five events, scoring podium finishes at all but the last one a Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. That 15-place run ended Angelelli and Magnussen's streak of nine consecutive finishes of fourth or better as co-drivers. In the weeks since, Magnussen has been fulfilling his other driving commitments in the Danish Touring Car Championship and as a General Motors factory Corvette driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series.
Friday night, the SunTrust driving duo hopes to start another podium streak with the ultimate result. As is the case every time the ever-competitive Daytona Prototypes of the Rolex Series take to the track, they'll have their work cut out for them. Last week's second-place run at Daytona brought Angelelli, the 2005 series co-champion with Taylor, to within four points of Scott Pruett in the driver championship. It also brought the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac to within nine points of Pruett's No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Lexus Riley in the team championship. In addition, there's a freight train approaching at full speed in both the driver and team point standings as the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley team and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty have reeled off three consecutive victories from the pole and four wins altogether this season and are now 17 points out of the championship lead.
Thus, finding themselves in victory lane on Friday night would feel like a little slice of heaven for Angelelli, Magnussen and the entire SunTrust team. "Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa," as they say in the movie. Just ask SunTrust crew chief Travis Houge, who hails from nearby Dolliver, Iowa. He'll be the first to agree.
The Iowa Speedway 400K is a one-day show Friday, with practice for all Rolex Series competitors beginning at 10 a.m. EDT. Qualifying for the Daytona Prototypes is set for 6 p.m. Race time is 9 p.m. with SPEED-TV's same-day, delayed broadcast on Friday at 10 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions can be found at www.grand-am.com.
Quotes from Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley:
You're coming off of one of your most thrilling finishes in team history with last week's run from 18th to second at Daytona. Would you say the mood of the team must be very upbeat as you head to Iowa this weekend?
"Ah, Daytona -- I couldn't believe it. We were very, very disappointed about what happened in qualifying. I knew for sure that I had the second-quickest car on the track all day. We're definitely not the last car in the field. We just put our heads down and did what we know how to do best, and that's perform at our best when our backs are against the wall. It was a great result for us in the championship. The 99 car is very quick. They are going to be very difficult to beat unless they have problems. The 01 car is still the car to beat in the championship."
You had a look at the Iowa circuit when the SunTrust team tested there back in March. What did you learn and how can you apply that to this week's effort?
"We tested there back in March. I honestly have to say there is not much we can say we learned that will help us. It was kind of cold and kind of wet. We got a good look at the track. It's definitely something different. It's the shortest and the slowest track that I have ever been to. The race is going to be very interesting. Race strategy, I'm sure, is going to be very important. It will define the winners and the losers. There is no passing zone on the race track. The only way to overtake cars will be in the pits. We will see the pit crew more focused and more determined than ever in trying to have very good pit stops. That is what will make the difference for all the teams. That, and where they will qualify."
Quotes from Jan Magnussen, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley:
It seems like it's been forever since you last drove the SunTrust Pontiac. How do you feel about getting back with your teammates in the Rolex Series at a track you've never seen before?
"I'm feeling really good about getting back to the SunTrust team and the Rolex Series. I'm looking forward to it. It's a fun deal for me. I've never been to the track, but the team has tested there already, and we will have a full day of promoter testing on Thursday, so I feel like we'll be ready. I don't know what the track is like, other than the fact it's small. We'll get there early, check it out, and hope for the best. For once, it's a good thing the GT cars won't be racing out there with us because the track is so small. I have no real concerns, otherwise. The team's always treated me really well. They've given me all the time I've needed in the car to get ready. So far, Max and I have done really well together. I'm not worried at all. Every time I come back to the team, they give me a really good car and we've been able to make the most of it. This weekend should be no different."
How have things been going for you away from the SunTrust effort?
"Obviously, we had (the 24 Hours of) Le Mans, which went pretty well. We came in second. We ran as good of a race as we could. We made no mistakes. We stopped only for fuel and tires. We got beat by the Aston (Martin). We'll have to work hard on that for next year. The (Danish) Touring Car is going a lot better, now. It was a tough start to the year with some DNFs, and we didn't quite have the speed. Now, we're getting good results. We're second in championship with half the season to go. We are working as hard as we can. It's difficult for me to put in lots of test days because of my schedule. I'm pretty much racing somewhere every weekend."
Quote from Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley team:
The championship chase looks a lot better heading to Iowa than it did a week ago. How do you see things shaping up there?
"The car we are racing at this point is still the 01 car, so we met our objective of finishing ahead of that car at Daytona. We had a fantastic drive from 18th to second. We always want to win, but that was just a fantastic effort by everybody involved at Daytona. What we now have to be careful of is not only beating the 01, but beating the 99 car because they are coming up very fast.
What are your thoughts about racing on the Iowa circuit for the very first time?
"I don't know what to say about this weekend, to be honest. We went there and tested the track and the biggest feeling we came away from there with was wondering what it was going to be like with 18 cars on the track. For sure, there's going to be not much to the race. I think you just need to be in front because nobody is going to be able to pass you. But the objective is still the same. The main thing is to win the championship. So we have to make sure we beat the 01 car and make sure we can be more of a match for the 99 car. The race there will be a total crap shoot. I think we'll have a better idea after everybody's run on the track together and learn from that. We've had six podiums in eight races. You know, we just need to keep working at this championship, beating the 01 car, and start protecting ourselves from the 99 car. It will be good to have Jan back with us. We would have liked to have had him for all the races, but we knew we couldn't. Jonathan did a great job of filling in for him. But we're looking forward to having Jan back in the car with Max. He's in a racing groove, racing every weekend somewhere. So there's no concern that we haven't seen him in the SunTrust car since May."