Yes Virginia, There Is a Podium for SunTrust Angelelli, Taylor Jump to Third in the Rolex Series Championship After Stellar Pit Work Helps SunTrust Car Finish Third at VIR Flawless driving performances by veteran and former series champion ...
Yes Virginia, There Is a Podium for SunTrust
Angelelli, Taylor Jump to Third in the Rolex Series Championship After Stellar Pit Work Helps SunTrust Car Finish Third at VIR
Flawless driving performances by veteran and former series champion Max Angelelli and his 20-year-old co-pilot Ricky Taylor, and stellar work by the SunTrust Racing pit crew brought the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing its first podium of the season at Saturday's GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway in Alton.
The third-place finish was the SunTrust team's best of 2010 and ended a four-race podium drought dating back to its runner-up finish last September at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City, which was preceded a race earlier by a victory in late-August at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It was also Taylor's first Rolex Series podium in 24 career starts.
Angelelli, a two-time winner already at VIR (2004 and 2007), found himself in hot pursuit of his third in the closing laps of today's 2-hour, 45-minute timed event. Race leader Scott Pruett and his No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley brought out the day's second caution some 20 minutes from the finish when his rear spoiler broke off and settled in the middle of the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit with second-place Burt Frisselle in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley and Angelelli in his rear-view mirror. Angelelli and Frisselle did their best to try and catch the determined Pruett, sans spoiler, over a final five-lap sprint to the finish, but the series' all-time win leader was able to hold them off for 25th career win and third in a row for the Ganassi team this season.
"I was trying everything I could at the end, there," said Angelelli, who took over for Taylor just short of the 45-minute mark in fifth place. "We were missing a little bit of top speed because of the way we set up our car. But, overall, the car was pretty good. I think I was at the pace of the others (Pruett and Frisselle). But I was really impressed with Scott Pruett. He drove an unbelievable race at the end without the spoiler. I couldn't believe it. We were pushing him and he just finished very strong."
The defining moment for the SunTrust team, as it turned out, was a phenomenal pit stop with just over an hour remaining. Angelelli had maintained his fifth-place position from the time he took over for Taylor on lap 24 until he rolled onto pit lane for tires and fuel during a lap-56 caution. Quick work by the SunTrust crew gained Angelelli two positions as he resumed in third behind then-first-place Frisselle and second-place Pruett. Nine laps later, Pruett got by Frisselle for the lead.
Taylor's opening stint, meanwhile, was a solid one to start the day on the right foot for the SunTrust team. After qualifying fifth on Friday afternoon, he held his position throughout his almost 45-minute tour of duty this afternoon, moved up to fourth by lap 18 when the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Brian Frisselle ahead of him experienced problems, and then up to third by the time he pitted just prior to the mandatory 45-minute opening pit stop window.
"The car was not as strong as it was at Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.), but we were kind of expecting that coming into this weekend," said the sophomore mechanical engineering major from the University of Central Florida, who qualified on the pole for the first time in his career two weekends ago at the Alabama track. "These medium-downforce tracks aren't our best. But it worked out well in the end. It's very difficult to pass here, but the SunTrust guys did a really good job on the pit stops. I know we got ahead of two cars on that last stop, there. I think that really turned our race around. Max really put the pressure on at the end and he might have had something for them if the race would've gone a couple more laps."
With the third-place finish, the SunTrust team moved from seventh to third in the Rolex Series championship after four events. Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas, winners of three straight after their runner-up finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, hold a commanding 137-106 lead over the next-best team in the points -- the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley of Darren Law and David Donohue, which finished fourth today. The SunTrust team, with 99 points, is tied for third with the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negri and John Pew, which had early problems today and finished 13th.
"We really needed this result today," said team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove to the SunTrust team's 2004 victory at VIR with Angelelli, and also enjoyed his own Wayne Taylor Racing's first victory here in 2007, when Angelelli and Jan Magnussen were behind the wheel of the SunTrust Racing machine. "Max and Ricky drove flawlessly. It was really great for Ricky, getting his first podium and his first with this team. Max did his usual thing at the end of the race. And the team, I have to say, really put us on the podium. The pit stops were incredible. We basically beat the cars out of the pits today. One of the things about this GRAND-AM racing now is, being so difficult to pass out there, track position is everything. And, especially with our car for whatever reason, when we're out in front in clean air, we can always be the quickest car, but behind traffic, we just don't seem to be able to close on anybody. There's some sort of aerodynamic inefficiency going on and we'll just have to keep on working on that. So, the only way we can make up those positions is on pit stops. And today, the guys basically put us on the podium. We've now gained some spots back in the points. Congratulations to the Ganassi team, again. I guess we've moved up in the championship, which is nice. But the deficit is so big, we can't even think about racing for the top spot in the championship right now. We've just got to go and keep doing what we did this weekend and try and grow on that. I'll have to say, standing in the crowd there and watching Ricky and Max on the podium together, it was special."
Round five of the 2010 Rolex Series schedule is Memorial Day, May 31, at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.