Gutsy Runner-Up Finish for SunTrust at New Jersey A Week After Team's First Win of the Season, Angelelli Overcomes Two Off-Course Excursions With Dramatic Next-To-Last-Lap Pass for Second Co-drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante and their...
Gutsy Runner-Up Finish for SunTrust at New Jersey
A Week After Team's First Win of the Season, Angelelli Overcomes Two Off-Course Excursions With Dramatic Next-To-Last-Lap Pass for Second
Co-drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante and their No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing followed up last weekend's first victory of the season with a gutsy second-place performance in Sunday's inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Supercar Life 250 at the brand new New Jersey Motorsports Park road circuit in Millville.
The runner-up finish, SunTrust's third podium of 2008 and its 33rd in 65 Rolex Series starts dating back to 2004, came in typical, dramatic Angelelli style. The Italian took over for Valiante shortly after the 30-minute mark and drove an eventful two-hour stint to close the race, fighting his way back from not one, but two off-course excursions after side-to-side contact in fast sweeping right-hand turns on the narrow circuit. He muscled his way past the No. 59 Brumos Porsche of Joao Barbosa on the next-to-last lap of today's 105-lap event, then just didn't have enough to catch Oswaldo Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford at the finish. Angelelli took the checkered flag just 0.459 seconds behind Negri, who with co-driver Mark Patterson scored the Shank team's first victory since the 2006 season-ending race at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City.
"I could have overtaken him (Negri), but I would have had to push him out of the way and that would not have been fair," said Angelelli, who clocked the fastest lap of the race (1 minute, 12.440 seconds at 111.817 mph) on the 65th tour of the 2.25-mile, 14-turn layout. "So, I just parked myself behind him. It was a wild race, but it is normal for a Grand-Am race. This is the way we race here. And it's very difficult. I went off a couple of times and recovered. A lot of people did the same. Everybody is so tight together. There are a lot of good cars, good drivers, good teams, and different winners. That's what makes Grand-Am racing so great."
After qualifying second Saturday to give SunTrust six front-row starting spots in 13 races this season, Valiante made a brilliant move on polesitter Mark Wilkins in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford on a lap seven restart and held the point before getting passed by Wilkins just before the day's second caution period on lap 16. With the nine laps in the lead, the SunTrust team has now led nine of the season's 13 events, including 80 of the 102 race laps while dominating from pole to checkered flag in winning last weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Valiante was in second when he pitted under caution on lap 18 for tires, fuel and the driver change to Angelelli.
"We had a really good start," Valiante said. "I was able to get by the 61 and get a strong gap, there. We've got the SunTrust car running really well, now. The team has done a phenomenal job. We're trying to understand the car well. Max and I are working together to find the best setup on the weekends. I think we're really looking strong, especially with one race to go."
Angelelli resumed in seventh when the race went back to green on lap 20, then lost three positions on lap 27 when he and Alex Gurney in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac got together heading through turn one, sending Angelelli off into the dirt. By lap 49, Angelelli had worked his way up to sixth before the day's third caution came out on lap 54, sending him to the pits one final time for tires and fuel. A stellar pit stop by the SunTrust crew sent Angelelli back on track in second place behind Gurney. But on the lap-60 restart, a slower GT-class car blocked Angelelli shortly after the start-finish line and Negri, in the No. 60 car, was able to scoot past heading into turn one.
On the very next lap, Frisselle, who had taken over for Wilkins in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford, dove inside Angelelli to take third place away while negotiating turn three. The two cars touched, and Angelelli again went off into the dirt. He got back on track in ninth place. From there, Angelelli mounted a furious charge back toward the front and immediately began to clock the fastest laps of the race. His fastest, on lap 65, was just four laps after he ventured off course the second time. He was back in the top-five by lap 81, then passed two cars on lap 82 to crack the top-three once again. Angelelli temporarily lost second place to Barbosa in the No. 59 car on lap 96, but fought his way back by Barbosa for good on lap 104.
Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand, in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche, grabbed third place for the final podium spot 1.2 seconds behind Angelelli. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, whose weekend started rather inauspiciously with a tremendous crash during a promoter test day here Thursday that destroyed the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team's primary race car, clinched the team and driver championships with a ninth-place finish in a back-up car that did not arrive at the track until late Saturday. They have a 38-point lead over Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac with only one race to go. The maximum points available per race is 35.
"In what started out as a tough weekend with the Ganassi team and the track and everything, to be second is a really good result and I'm really happy," said Wayne Taylor, whose team moved up one spot in the championship to seventh, 11 points out of the top-five and 17 points from the top-three. "Michael did a great job qualifying the car, and he did a great opening stint. Max does what he normally does at the end of the race. I don't know what he does in the middle of the race. He scares all of us (laughing). But he always pulls it out in the end. Second place is good. Max definitely redeemed himself. It's great to have back-to-back weekends like we've had, and I'm looking forward to going to Utah."