Utah: SunTrust Racing qualifying report

Miller Time ATLANTA - With a title fight in its Daytona Prototype division, it's appropriate the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series holds its season-ending banquet in Las Vegas. The series' second-longest race on the series' longest road...

Miller Time

ATLANTA - With a title fight in its Daytona Prototype division, it's appropriate the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series holds its season-ending banquet in Las Vegas.

The series' second-longest race on the series' longest road course, Miller is sure to be a challenge, especially since the Discount Tire Sunchaser marks the first time the Rolex Sports Car Series has raced at the track 40 minutes west of Salt Lake City.

Knowing the difficulty of Miller's layout, as well as its point standing in relation to the championship, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Team has twice tested at Miller in anticipation of this weekend's season finale.

The SunTrust Racing Team is second in the team standings, just four points behind the leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Team with only a three-point cushion over the third-place No. 76 Krohn Racing Team. And in the driver standings, SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli is third, 23 points behind leader Jorg Bergmeister and four points arrears the Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, who are tied for second.

With both a team championship and a driver championship on the line at Miller, SunTrust Racing has tabbed Champ Car standout Ryan Hunter-Reay to partner with Angelelli and driver/owner Wayne Taylor.

The Dallas, Texas, native has proven sure-footed when it comes to turning left and right, as he is the youngest driver to ever win a Champ Car street race, taking the victory at Surfer's Paradise, Australia, in 2003. That win also made Hunter-Reay the youngest American Champ Car rookie to win in 20 years.

And while Hunter-Reay's first race in a Daytona Prototype will be at Miller, the 25-year-old has proven to be a quick study.

In 2004 at the Milwaukee Mile - just his third oval race in Champ Car - Hunter-Reay dominated, winning the pole and leading all 250 laps to become the youngest driver in Champ Car history to win on an oval. And by leading wire-to-wire, Hunter-Reay broke the record for most laps led in a single race, a mark that had been set in 1993 by former Champ Car and Formula 1 champion Nigel Mansell.

Hunter-Reay brings his accolades to the Angelelli/Taylor tandem, who combined to win last year's driver and team championships, as well as the 24 Hours at Daytona (Fla.). The three look to add to their respective resumes with a strong showing together at Miller.

Quotes from Wayne Taylor, driver/owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley: Why did you choose Ryan Hunter-Reay to partner with you and Max Angelelli at Miller?

Ryan is everything we could want in a driver. He's very fast, young, all-American and Max rates him very highly. He fits our team. It was an easy decision to make."

It's been said by some that in order for different racing series to be successful in America, American drivers need to participate. With Grand American trying to carve itself a niche within the motorsports landscape, how important is it to have an American driver in Ryan Hunter-Reay with your race team?

"Well, I think it is important. This is Grand American Road Racing. It's an American series and I think young American drivers should be there. I think that there are so many European drivers and South Americans that have come over to race in the United States that you almost forget that this is racing in America. I really do think that the input I got from Max about Ryan and all the people I've talked to and just the little bit of background I've read on him made the decision easy. Your first impression is normally the lasting one. When he approached me last year I remember thinking, 'He's got a good head on his shoulders. He's professional. Not pushy.' I just think he fits our team really well."

With Miller being Hunter-Reay's first start in a Daytona Prototype, what is the plan to get him acclimated to the car and the course?

"Miller is a very technical circuit, with 24 corners in all. We're going to give the car to Ryan on that first day of practice so that he can acclimate himself quickly. Good, fast race car drivers can get in anything and be consistently fast. That's Ryan. He's always shown to be a quick study, on and off the track. He's smart and extremely professional - a perfect fit for our organization."

You were able to test at Miller twice in anticipation of the Discount Tire Sunchaser. What are your thoughts on the venue?

"It's a very difficult circuit - 24 corners with only one long straight, so there's really no time to rest. And it's a very long track. It's four point something miles and the corners are very confusing. It's a nine-hour race and it's crucial to finish in the top-three for championship reasons. It's sort of a fine line between the speed and understanding the championship. Really, the race is about two things - winning the championship for SunTrust and winning the driver's championship for Max."

What is the key element in an endurance race?

"The long endurance races have become like sprint races these days, but you've just got to remember that you can't hit anybody. You can't go off the road, because coming in the pit, you're going to lose the race. You have to be on the track for nine hours, and anytime you come in the pits it can only be for tires and fuel. And even if you're off the pace and have difficulty getting through traffic, well then that's tough. On top of that, Miller is fairly high above sea level and it's going to be very hot there. It's going to be a very demanding race."

Quotes from Bill Riley, team director and race strategist for the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Team: You've tested twice at Miller Motorsports Park. How did the tests go, especially with it being a new venue and everyone starting on the same page?

"Well, we've tested there twice now and we really like the track and the venue, so we definitely think we have a pretty strong starting point when we show up."

How do approach going into a new venue where there aren't any past notes to form a baseline setup?

"You just kind of look at the track map and think about what it looks like and how it's going to be similar to other tracks and you put a setup together that will work well everywhere. That's pretty much what we have at Miller. It's a pretty standard setup for us."

Miller is a technical, 24-turn course. With regard to it being a nine-hour race, how hard is that on drivers and equipment?

"The track is pretty easy on the equipment, but the drivers are going to play a big part in this race. They can't have any problems. It's four-and-a-half miles back to pit lane. So if you have a problem, you're in big trouble."

How do you go about calling a nine-hour race and keeping everyone fresh, from yourself to your drivers to your crew?

"I think with it being nine hours, it'll go like a sprint race.  It's
going to be a pretty hard core nine-hour race.  It won't be anything
close to an endurance race.  Everybody will be all-out."

Quotes from Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley:

You've tested twice at Miller Motorsports Park. How did it go?

"It's pretty physical because a lap there is very long. You have a lot of corners, so the concentration is huge. You get tired more from brain work rather than from physical work. The track is nice. It's a different track. It's going to be a very different race, for sure. Very hard to predict, but easy to have crashes, I think. Probably not to go off, but not to have crashes."

Is that because there are a lot of areas where cars can make a dive in passing?

"Because the lap is long, so you don't want to lose time following a GT car. If you do that, you're going to lose a lap. A lap is almost three minutes."

Is Miller like any other track that you've raced on in your career, be it in Grand Am or another series?

"It's different because you have a lot of corners and there's more area. The track is long, but the area is more. That means you don't have any straight lines. Straight line is low speed, so it's really different."

Quotes from Ryan Hunter-Reay, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley at Miller: You have an eclectic racing background. Do you feel like that will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect when you climb into the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley at Miller?

"Yes. Absolutely. I know what to expect. When I came into American Spirit (in Champ Car), I only had one year of (Toyota) Atlantic. I was a team-mate to Jimmy Vasser, and the first time I ever sat in a Champ Car was Spring Training just a couple of weeks before the first race. I've always been thrust into the deep end, but I'm looking forward to this one, that's for sure. Most of the guys that are in the series I've run against in the past. I've definitely raced against a lot of them before and I look forward to doing it again."

What does an endurance race take out of you? What do you need to bring to the table mentally?

"It's definitely draining, both physically and mentally. You've got to be prepared to go the distance and you really have to concentrate on being consistent. Consistency is huge in endurance racing. You have to be there in the end. You can't just go for the first four. Your mind has to be set for that type of racing. You just have to be consistent, calm, collected and get the job done."

How would you describe your driving style?

"Controlled aggression."

With where the SunTrust Racing Team is in the championship point standings, and where Max Angelelli is in the driver standings, how do you approach the race at Miller? Are you aggressive or conservative?

"I've been aggressive in the past, and my job coming into the situation is to get the job done. If they say to me, 'We're in this position. We have this much time to go. We need to get past this car,' then that's what I'm going to do, no matter what. I'm here for the team. I'm honored SunTrust, Wayne Taylor and team partner, Bill Riley chose me to drive this car in the final race. I know that driver selection was crucial, so I'm honored to be the guy they chose and I'm definitely going to get the job done."

-credit: www.SunTrustRacing.com

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Nigel Mansell , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Luis Diaz , Jörg Bergmeister , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Max Angelelli , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing