SunTrust Earns a Win of the Garden State Variety
Angelelli, Taylor Use Grit, Determination To Score Second Rolex Series Victory in a Row, Vault to Close Second in the Championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park
Max Angelelli and his SunTrust Racing team are no longer the bridesmaids when it comes to racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville. The veteran Italian and his 22-year-old co-driver Ricky Taylor dominated Sunday’s Global Barter 250 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race and brought home the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing’s second consecutive victory and the team’s first in five tries at the 2.25-mile, 14-turn road course about an hour south of Philadelphia.
SunTrust’s 20th Rolex Series win since joining the series in 2004 was a welcome result considering the team had recorded finishes of second, second, third and second in its first four visits to Millville, oftentimes racing like the class of the Rolex Series field but never quite being able to grasp the first-place trophy in the end. It was also a welcome result because it elevated the SunTrust team to second place in the Rolex Series championship, just four points behind the front-running No. 8 Starworks Motorsport duo of Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio, whose second-place finish today, 4.998 seconds behind the SunTrust Corvette DP, was their best since a runner-up result at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. The SunTrust team, of course, had a disastrous Rolex 24, followed by a solid but less-than-satisfying top-five at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., in round two that set the team back deep in the points chase.
But Angelelli and Taylor’s back-to-back victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago and today at New Jersey almost make the disappointment at Daytona and Barber a non-issue with nine races left in the season.
And it was Angelelli who put the capper on today’s victory in typical Angelelli fashion, driving the final two fuel-and-tire stints after the polesitting Taylor kept the SunTrust car in front for all but two laps of his opening 40-lap stint. Angelelli was behind the wheel for 53 of the team’s race-high 91 laps led, and he put on a driving clinic over the final 34 minutes of today’s two-hour, 45-minute race after the final round of pit stops saw him rejoin the race in third behind the No. 8 Starworks Ford of Dalziel, and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford of Oz Negri, neither of whom pitted. The veteran Italian first got Negri on the lap-90 restart for second place, then bided his time behind Dalziel before grabbing the lead for good on lap 105 with some 12 minutes remaining. Once Angelelli got by Dalziel, he was able to open a comfortable lead, and he methodically brought the SunTrust Corvette DP to the checkered flag.
“It was a very tough race, especially my middle stint,” Angelelli said. “My first set of tires was a combination of tires we qualified on and a new set, so the car was really difficult. It was very difficult to hold off the 01 (Scott Pruett) and 99 (Alex Gurney), because they were much faster than me. But my final stint, I could use a brand new set of tires. The car was really good. Really, really good. But not fast enough in top speed, obviously. The Ford engine is a lot faster than us at top speed, so you have to take sort of risks to overtake them. I was able to make my passes, and the rest is history.”
Shortly after taking over the SunTrust Corvette DP from Taylor just short of the one-hour mark, Angelelli inherited the lead when Memo Rojas pitted to turn the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley over to Pruett. Angelelli was dogged for the entire middle portion of the race as Pruett, and Gurney in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP, raced him nose-to-tail while also swapping second place a number of times. With 50 minutes remaining in the race, Pruett, running third at the time, rear-ended Gurney and both the Nos. 01 and 99 cars ventured off track. Gurney’s Corvette DP and Pruett’s BMW were too damaged to continue, relegating them to finishes of ninth and 10th, respectively.
“Yes, it was a really tough race,” said Taylor, whose first pole qualifying effort of the season on Saturday was the ninth of his career and the 20th all-time for SunTrust Racing. “I think track position was really important. You could see when Max was ahead of the 99 and 01 he was really driving hard to stay in front of them, and I think that’s what kind of led to them getting impatient and taking each other out. Traffic was really tough today because our tires were dropping off so quickly and it was so hard to get around GT cars. You really had to be very aggressive. Max just did a really good job. I lost the lead at one point and the SunTrust team put us right back in the lead, so it was really good day.”
“It was a fantastic win for Corvette, for Max and Ricky, for the team,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “We didn’t have the best car, but we definitely had the best team and the best drivers. Thanks to Corvette and Chevrolet, and Pratt and Miller, and all the people who work so hard for us. Thanks so much to ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) engines. Those guys are there every single day, they’re on the phone, everybody is totally focused. And thanks to SunTrust and Toshiba and all our partners, to Nelson Cambata, the car owner. People might forget that we started the season and did 13 laps of the 24-hour, then we went to the second race and didn’t have a very good race there, either. There’s been a lot of focus and, hopefully, we can keep doing it.”