Angelelli, Gidley Fight Hard for Fourth-Place Finish at Infineon; Top Three Teams Just Three Points Apart Headed to Season Finale Just three points separate the top three teams in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series championship with one race...
Angelelli, Gidley Fight Hard for Fourth-Place Finish at Infineon; Top Three Teams Just Three Points Apart Headed to Season Finale
Just three points separate the top three teams in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series championship with one race remaining, and the driving duo of Max Angelelli and Memo Gidley ensured the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team of Wayne Taylor Racing is one of them with a hard-fought fourth-place finish in Saturday's Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
After struggling through practice and qualifying Thursday and Friday, the SunTrust team was at its best during today's 97-lap event around the scenic 2.52-mile, 12-turn Infineon road circuit. Gidley, a local fan favorite from nearby Novato, Calif., who was teaming with Angelelli for the third time in the last four races, started from the sixth position and never put a wheel off during his 27-lap opening stint. He pitted for fuel and tires and handed the SunTrust car over to Angelelli, who started the day locked in a first-place tie with Scott Pruett in the driver championship. A quick pit stop put Angelelli in position to move up one place to fifth when the field completed its first round of stops by Lap 31, with the polesitting No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney at the point.
Quick pit work by the SunTrust crew on its second stop of the day on Lap 66 enabled Angelelli to move up another position to fourth by the end of that round of green-flag stops at Lap 72. From there, Pruett in third and Angelelli in fourth trailed a nose-to-tail battle for the lead as second-place Gurney in the No. 99 Pontiac dogged David Donohue in the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Porsche from Lap 72 until the day's only yellow flag came out on Lap 92. Shortly after the restart with just two laps to go, Gurney slipped past Donohue for the lead and never looked back, capturing the Gainsco team's series-record eighth victory of the season. Donohue and co-driver Darren Law took second. Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley took third, just ahead of Angelelli in the SunTrust Racing machine.
With the victory, the No. 99 team, with Gurney and Fogarty, moved into a one-point lead in the team and driver championships over the No. 01 team and Pruett. The SunTrust team and Angelelli are both three points out of first in the team and driver championships with only the season-ending Sunchaser 1000 in Utah left on the schedule three weeks hence.
"I think we got the best result we could have, considering all that happened during the weekend," said Angelelli, who will be vying for his and SunTrust's second championship in the last three seasons to go with the one he shared with then co-driver and now team owner Wayne Taylor in 2005. "Technically, we did not have a winning car. We could stay with the leaders, but I needed a yellow flag, which never came until it was too late because of all the lapped cars between me and the leaders on the restart. Definitely, we struggled during the weekend. Now, we have to go to Salt Lake City and win the race. We will settle for nothing else. Three points is a little bit, and it's too much. But, I think we just saved ourselves with a good race today because the points could have been a lot worse. The team, as usual, did a great job today. I'm very happy with our pit stops. They were fantastic."
"I'm not disappointed, by any means, with a fourth-place finish today," Taylor said. "It was, for some reason, a difficult weekend for us. Salvaging fourth still keeps us in the top-three in the championship. I don't think we could've expected any more than what we got based on practice and qualifying Thursday and Friday. We just need to go away and work harder than ever on the next one. It's a seven-and-a-half-hour race and there are lots of different things that come into play there. The GTs racing with us, the length of the race. I'm very confident we have a shot at this, no question about it. A three-car battle like this is great for the series. And you know what? Worst case scenario, we finish third in our very first year with our new team. But I don't want to think like that, yet."
"It was good, overall," said Gidley, who finished third with Angelelli at Birmingham in July and second at Watkins Glen two weeks ago. "I was fighting the car a bit. I thought I was going to make up a position at the start. But someone got into Pruett, shoved him wide, and I checked up just because I didn't want to get involved in something at that point. After that, it was very hard to keep pace with the guys in front of me. They were definitely running a little bit faster. But, again, I was just trying to do consistent laps and not make any mistakes and give the car to Max in a good position and also in good shape. I think if we would've had a yellow early on, we really could have used that to close the gap and have a good, fighting chance to get on the podium. I think this whole weekend was just a little bit of a struggle. You have that, now and then. Now, it's off to the last race and, basically, whoever wins will be the champion. It doesn't get any better than that."