ALTON, Va. (April 22, 2009) -- Yes, Virginia, there is a racing season in progress. Considering the high-powered racing prototypes and GT cars of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series have been nowhere to be seen over the last three months, the...
ALTON, Va. (April 22, 2009) -- Yes, Virginia, there is a racing season in progress. Considering the high-powered racing prototypes and GT cars of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series have been nowhere to be seen over the last three months, the 2009 Rolex Series is very much alive and well, thank you very much.
An uncharacteristically lengthy void in the schedule followed this year's season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona -- which itself amounted to a season's worth of racing, covering more than 2,600 miles in 24 consecutive hours. At long last, Round 2 of the 2009 Rolex Series is finally upon us in the form of Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton.
Count the SunTrust Racing driving duo of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle among the happiest Rolex Series competitors to finally get their season back underway this weekend on the lush, scenic 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit located within shouting distance of the North Carolina-Virginia state line.
Both Angelelli, the 2005 series champion, and Frisselle, his brand new fulltime co-driver for 2009, have been chomping at the bit to resume the latest championship chase since the Rolex Series traveling road show packed up and left Daytona. To help pass the time, Angelelli actually got back into snow skiing in the Italian Alps near his Monaco residence for the first time this decade. Frisselle, an avid skier who lives in Aspen, Colo., skied so much over the last three months that he actually got tired of it. All they could think of, even while navigating the snowy slopes, was strapping themselves into the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing and continuing their pursuit of the Rolex Series championship.
They'll finally get their wish this weekend at VIR, one of SunTrust's most successful racing venues over the last five Rolex Series seasons. After a strong, fourth-place finish at Daytona in the first 24-hour race for the still-new Dallara chassis program, Angelelli and Frisselle feel confident about their position in the point standings with 11 races remaining over the next 25 weekends. In the four events at VIR before getting crashed out of contention from their pole starting position in last year's Rolex Series visit to Alton, Angelelli and the SunTrust team scored victories in 2004 and 2007, a runner-up finish in 2006, and a fourth-place run from the pole in 2005. Over the last five years at VIR, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing machine led 99 laps in all, including eight last year before being run off the track.
With the addition of Frisselle, the 25-year-old driving phenom who scored his first Rolex Series victories on back-to-back weekends last August at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, as well as Roush Yates Ford power under the engine cover for the first time this season, the SunTrust team feels more than ready to take its long-awaited next step toward the 2009 Rolex Series title this weekend.
Practice and qualifying for the Bosch Engineering 250 are set for Friday. Race time Saturday for the 250-mile (or 2-hour, 45-minute, whichever comes first) race is 2:30 p.m. EDT with SPEED-TV providing the live broadcast. The detailed event schedule, as well as live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions, can be found at www.grand-am.com.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
It's been a long time since you strapped yourself into the SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara for a race. What are your overall thoughts heading to VIR?
"I can't say how much I am looking forward to racing again. I really started looking forward to it at least two months ago. It got to be pretty awful not being able to race for three whole months. It was boring, from a racing standpoint. We are definitely looking forward to starting the season again at VIR because it has been a really good track for the SunTrust team. I'm really looking forward to taking the Dallara back there for the second time. It is a very good car, a very good project for us. I'm feeling very good, personally. Basically, there is a very good atmosphere throughout the team. We got our first experience with Brian (Frisselle) at Daytona. Everything went well, for the most part. I'm really looking forward the rest of the season with him and the rest of the team."
What did you do to keep busy during the long layoff?
"Well, one thing I did a lot of was skiing in Italy. I kind of got away from skiing for a lot of years. But when Brian became my teammate, we started talking a lot about it because he lives in Colorado and he's heavily into skiing, himself. I used to be a really good skier, and it came back pretty quickly. I also got to spend a lot of good, quality time with my family. And I had a lot of fun building computer simulators for Wayne's boys (Ricky and Jordan Taylor). As far as the team goes, I did a lot of work looking after the behind-the-scenes side of the business, the driver management stuff we do with Wayne, and other collateral business. I tried to open new projects for the future. A lot of good things kept coming up, so I definitely kept busy. But I'm ready to get back in the race car."
How would you rate the layout at VIR and account for the success the SunTrust team has had there over the years?
"I really like the track at VIR. I pretty much like all of the tracks we race on in North America. At VIR, you basically have only one passing zone, and that is going to restrict opportunities if we happen to be struggling in qualifying or have pit stop problems. It's very important to start in the front and be in front all the time, there. We did that last year when we raced the Dallara there the first time. I think Brian will give us a good starting position in qualifying, and he will get us off to a good start in the race. We have a good handling car and VIR is a true road course, a momentum track, and that is what should be good for our car and our drivers once again."
Brian Frisselle, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
How did you spend your summer vacation -- er, three-month layoff?
"It almost feels like the season hasn't started, yet. Those three months can cause you to lose a little of that momentum we had at the first race in Daytona, which was on my mind a good bit of the time. We left there fourth in points, which is a good position to be in after that race. Anyway, I did some skiing. I got most of my ski days in during the three-month break. I actually got sick of skiing. I just wasn't feeling it. I got plenty of days in, but I just couldn't wait to get out to the races. I probably was concerned more than ever about not wanting to get hurt because I have such a great opportunity with the SunTrust team. I limited myself a bit on the things I did out on the slopes, and with the training I did. I was more picky and choosy about the days I decided to go skiing. I avoided the days where the weather and the visibility were questionable, or if there were too many people out there. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy my skiing. There were a lot of days that were just awesome. I ended on the most amazing powder day on Aspen Mountain. So, I got it out of my system and now I'm ready to go racing."
What are your biggest concerns as far as getting back into a racing groove this weekend?
"Well, we come to VIR in a solid position in the standings after a good team effort at Daytona. We had no mechanical issues, which is a big thing in a 24-hour race. We never had to go behind the pit wall. Of course you try to win even a 24-hour race, but coming out of there without any major problems and fourth in the points is a good place to be looking at the rest of the season. We've spent a lot of time practicing pit stops at the shop this past week to get not just Max and I into a rhythm, but the rest of the guys, too. After the long layoff, if you can imagine, it took us a little time to get the pit stop times right where we wanted them to be. But, sure enough, we seem to be in the groove. These guys are great. Pit stops are going to be huge at VIR because it's so difficult to pass, which makes track position so very, very important. We had a great four-driver combination at Daytona, but now it's down to Max and me for the rest of the season. I'm the qualifier and the race starter and he's the finisher, so that'll make things much, much cleaner. Being that VIR is now a two-day show, we'll have just a couple of quick practice sessions on Friday before we qualify, so we'll have to make the best use of our time right off the truck. I'm certain that once we start practice, we'll get up to speed in no time. I'm pretty confident we'll have a great car because the Dallara was fast there last year."
Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team:
From a team owner's standpoint, what is it like trying to keep a racing operation on track with a three-month break in the schedule so early in the season?
"It's been so frustrating to have such a long break, it's almost like we're starting a new season. But it's the same for everybody. I hope, once we're out there, we can pick back up on the momentum we built at Daytona. You know what? I've never had a team so wanting to go racing and so eager and so prepared and as focused as these guys are, now. It's a great feeling. This week, they did a lot of pit stop practice. For most of the past three months, we were able to take our time and basically look over every, single little thing about our racecar and the way we do things. And we worked really hard to just fine-tune all the little things that can make such a huge difference between winning on a consistent basis and not winning. To tell you the truth, we've never had that kind of time since we started this race team because of all that it has involved, both the expected and the unexpected. Because of that, and the fact that the drivers and everybody on the team are so very hungry to go racing again, we're looking forward to getting back at it in a big way."
Considering the success you and the team have had at VIR the last five seasons, safe to say it's a favorable venue to try and get back in the groove after a long layoff?
"I think VIR has always been a good race for us. We're definitely ready. As if we need any motivation at all to go out and put up a good result, VIR is right smack in the middle of SunTrust territory, so we have that incentive to do well, too. We had a solid result at Daytona, and now we have back-to-back weekends at VIR and New Jersey, where we know our racecar has a history of running well. It'll be the first race with just Brian and Max. After everything we saw of Brian in testing and at Daytona, we're very confident in our driver lineup. Brian won races last year. He definitely knows what he is doing. He's driven the Dallara, and driven it well. I have no worries about qualifying and the first part of the race, from that standpoint. And Max, he's won twice at VIR -- already. He knows how to close the deal. Do I sound excited? It's because I am."