Electrical Gremlins Deprive SunTrust of 9-Hour Race Win Angelelli, Taylor and Hunter-Reay combine to lead a race-high 53 laps in season finale at Miller but electrical problems thwarts Championship drive With a formidable driver lineup of Max...
Electrical Gremlins Deprive SunTrust of 9-Hour Race Win
Angelelli, Taylor and Hunter-Reay combine to lead a race-high 53 laps in season finale at Miller but electrical problems thwarts Championship drive
With a formidable driver lineup of Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Champ Car standout Ryan Hunter-Reay, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley was a force early in the nine-hour race on the 4.485-mile road course. After dominating the first four hours where the trio combined to lead a race-high 53 laps, electrical issues that resulted in numerous pit stops dropped the team to 14th when the checkered flag waved, seven laps down to the winning No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Team of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.
After starting Saturday's race in fifth, Angelelli - the defending driver's champion - knifed his way through the field, eventually moving the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley to second following the first pit stop on lap 28, and then to the overall lead on lap 34.
Angelelli stretched his margin to over 15 seconds before pitting for tires and fuel on lap 57 and handing the car over to Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay wasted no time and steadily increased the lead over the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche Crawford to 23 seconds, before a series of unfortunate events began to unfold for the SunTrust Racing Team.
Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 86 for routine service, and was assessed a 15-second penalty for passing a GT car during a local yellow and came out of the pits in second however he quickly took back the lead on lap 90 and proceed to open a gap at the rate of a full second a lap over CompUSA driver Scott Dixon increasing the margin to five, six and then seven seconds before being forced to pit for a deflating left-front tire and a growing electrical problem.
With four fresh Hoosier tires, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley returned to the track, but the electrical issues only grew worse as the engine was not firing on all cylinders. After pitting several times in an attempt to fix the electrical gremlins, the team found a faulty plug wire as the reason for the engine misfire. On a later stop during the first full-course yellow, the team changed several plug wires, figuring there may have been a leak in the header pipe which could have forced excessive heat into the engine, thus causing several plug wires to burn.
"It's a little bit like 2003," said Angelelli. "We lost the championship because of an electrical problem. Here again, we lost the championship for such a petty thing. It's a little bit of a shame. We were fastest and leading the race and felt comfortable. To lose it for an electrical problem - just a little cable - is such as shame. I feel sorry for SunTrust and Pontiac."
"While disappointing, if I look at say, the fourth or fifth race of the season, I never thought we could finish in the top-three," added Angelelli. "Then getting closer to the end of the championship when we were second, I started dreaming a little bit, but then lost it again."
Hunter-Reay, in his first time at the wheel of a Daytona Prototype, first time at Miller Motorsports Park and first drive for SunTrust Racing, stood out throughout the practice sessions and during his race stint leading a race high 30 laps and opening the biggest lead of the race before the electrical problems surfaced to deprive the SunTrust Team of a likely victory.
"It's disappointing because I think we could have won the championship today," said Hunter-Reay. "That's the heartbreak about racing, because you have to wait another whole year and spend millions of dollars to get back to the same place in position to win the Championship. The most difficult part about it is that we've been so good all weekend. I've gotten along great with Max, Wayne, Bill (Riley, team manager and race strategist) and the whole team. It's just been awesome. Here we are running around in first-place and a plug wire pretty much ends our day and our championship run for SunTrust and Pontiac."
Taylor, while disappointed in the result, couldn't have been happier with the effort put forth by the team.
"I don't know how to thank Ryan Hunter-Reay enough for what he did." Said Taylor. "Such a limited amount of time we gave him in the car. He'd never been here testing before and he was really outstanding and I'm very proud of him. All I can say is that I don't understand how there can be such a talent out there who doesn't have a permanent ride somewhere. I'm hoping out of this that some big team owner saw what he did and will put him in a ride."
The result dropped the SunTrust Racing Team from second to third in the team standings.
"The team never gave up," added Taylor. "It's never over until it's over. And in three years with SunTrust and Riley, we finished second the first year, first the second year and third the third year. It can't be that bad."
In three years of competing in the Daytona Prototype division of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Team has finished in the top-three each year. Second in 2004, first in 2005, and despite a solid chance at defending their series championship in Saturday's season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, the SunTrust Racing Team had to settle for third in the championship standings.
The Daytona Prototypes of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series return to action in January 2007 for the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.