SunTrust Racing: Second with Michael Valiante (1:12.023 at 112.464 mph) The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR), coming off its first win of the season from the pole at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., last...
SunTrust Racing: Second with Michael Valiante (1:12.023 at 112.464 mph)
The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR), coming off its first win of the season from the pole at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., last weekend, will start on the front row for the sixth time in 13 races this season after qualifying Saturday for Sunday's inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Supercar Life 250 at the all-new New Jersey Motorsports Park road course.
Valiante, co-driving with Max Angelelli in the SunTrust Racing machine, clocked a fast lap of 1 minute, 12.023 seconds (112.464 mph) around the 2.25-mile, 14-turn circuit that is in the closing stages of construction just outside the southern New Jersey town of Millville. It was surpassed only by the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins, whose best lap was a 1:11.761 (112.874 mph) effort for that team's third pole of the season. Last week's pole by Valiante was his third and the SunTrust team's series-high fourth of the season. He and Angelelli went on to lead 80 of 102 race laps en route to SunTrust's 12th victory of all time since joining the series in 2004.
"The car kept getting better," Valiante said. "We kept going quicker and quicker. On both of my fastest laps, I was passing cars, so it's great that we're starting on the front row, but I definitely think we had a pole car today because I didn't get the most out of it, catching traffic. The car was really consistent like it was in qualifying at Sonoma. I think we have a really good race car again. But it really would've been nice to be on the pole again."
Looking ahead to Sunday's race, to be run together with the Rolex Series' GT-class competitors for the first time since the series' stop at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., July 20, Valiante expects considerable difficulty negotiating the tight but fast NJMP layout, which has been undergoing safety adjustments since series point leader Scott Pruett was involved in a tremendous accident entering the front straight during the opening session of a scheduled day-long promoter test day here Thursday. Pruett had to be evaluated at a local hospital after the shunt, which destroyed the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates primary race car. He was cleared to drive in Sunday's race and the team is expected to return late this evening with its Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning Lexus Riley that it had to retrieve from its race shop in Indianapolis. Pruett and Memo Rojas will start from the back of the Daytona Prototype grid.
"I think it's going to be a tough race," Valiante said. "I don't think it's going to come down to speed at all. It's going to come down to more about who's got the most reliable car here, and about getting through traffic cleanly because it's unbelievable how tough it is to pass here. That's what it's going to come down to."
"That was just a fantastic job by the SunTrust team, and a fantastic job by Michael," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "You know, I always like to be the fastest Pontiac because that's all we have to compare ourselves to. So I'm looking forward to the race. I think the facility is going to be great, but I think we should separate the classes for the race for safety's sake this time around, especially with what happened here on Thursday."