Mission Possible ATLANTA (Aug. 8, 2006) - Some might think that with three races to go, a 13-point lead in the Daytona Prototype division of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series is insurmountable. But those same people may have also...
ATLANTA (Aug. 8, 2006) - Some might think that with three races to go, a 13-point lead in the Daytona Prototype division of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series is insurmountable. But those same people may have also thought that a team ranked 29th following the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (Fla.) would be unable to challenge for the championship.
The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Team has already debunked the latter, having come from 29th in points following a crash at Daytona to pick up 27 spots over the course of 11 races to sit second in the championship point standings, 13 points arrears the series leading Krohn Racing Team with just three races remaining in the 14-race schedule.
Thirteen of anything is neither small nor large, and as the SunTrust Racing consortium of owner Wayne Taylor and drivers Max Angelelli and Ryan Briscoe head into the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course, they know a 13-point deficit is challenging - but not impossible - to overcome.
This is especially true with Friday's Crown Royal 200 at The Glen, held in conjunction with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race weekend.
The SunTrust Racing Team has been a force at Watkins Glen, with its No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley having scored two wins, five podiums and two poles. In fact, its worst finish in six career races at The Glen is sixth, giving SunTrust Racing an average finish of third since the team began racing Daytona Prototypes at The Glen in 2004.
In the SunTrust Racing Team's most recent outing at The Glen back in June during the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, Taylor shared driving duties with Angelelli and Briscoe. Third-place was the result, but considering that Taylor has replaced himself with Briscoe for Friday's Crown Royal 200, the familiarity Briscoe gained with SunTrust Racing two months ago has proven especially valuable.
With an all-or-nothing attitude and two drivers intent on winning, Watkins Glen provides the perfect opportunity for the SunTrust Racing Team to prove that 13 points is indeed surmountable.
Quotes from Wayne Taylor, driver/owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley:
At Watkins Glen, you're racing with NASCAR. At Sonoma, you're running with the IRL IndyCar Series. Is that a help or a hindrance when you're there with a big touring series? Do you feel overshadowed or do you feel that Grand Am and the SunTrust team can ride their coattails and maybe get a little more media attention that they wouldn't have gotten elsewhere?
"I enjoy going to these races when NASCAR or the IRL is there. I would like it if we were the bigger show, but we're not there yet. We will be soon. One of the difficult things in competing with stock car racing is that the fan base has grown so much, simply because over the last 10-15 years, there's been a real solid direction. I think Grand Am has clearly identified what it's needed, and slowly but surely, the fans are coming."
How do you like racing at Watkins Glen? It has some high speed corners, but also some slow ones too.
"It's my favorite track. Last year we went to Watkins Glen three times. We won two out of the three races. The one I wanted to win the most, which we didn't win, was the six-hour. And this event, this particular race upcoming, we don't use the full track because of NASCAR, but we use a very short track which is very, very fast for us. I love Watkins Glen."
Explain a lap around Watkins Glen.
"We run a five-speed gearbox. We're going about 185 mph down the back. Going into turn one we brake pretty late and you have to come out of turn one so that you can go through the esses back in fifth gear, which will determine your top speed down to the bus stop. You've really got to be precise at this track, because everything is so fast. You've got to look two corners ahead. It is demanding on the driver because it's so fast. I think it's one of the fastest average speed race tracks we go to."
Instead of you co-driving with Max Angelelli, Ryan Briscoe is in your place at The Glen. What is the reasoning behind the switch?
"Because we are really in a hunt for the championship. With all of the stuff going on with the team and plans for next year, it's very difficult to be managing and driving the car, and I thought the best thing would be to put Ryan in the car. That way, I could focus on the business side and he would be focused on the car. I don't think it would be right for me to not be able to focus on driving when the championship is what is important to the team and to Max. So, that was a decision that was pretty easy to do actually."
Despite the fact that Watkins Glen is one of your favorite tracks?
"You know, the championship is more important at the moment, and I think I've got to look at the big picture here. I would really like to win this championship for SunTrust Racing and for Max."
What does Briscoe bring to the team? Obviously he did very well for you at The Glen in June. He's a young racer, but what specifically does he bring to SunTrust Racing?
"He brings youth. He brings speed. He's a good friend of Max and I. He's part of the SunTrust Racing Team. He has all of the ingredients we need."
In addition to the June race at The Glen, has Briscoe been with you at any other races this year?
"Well, he was going to do the 24 Hour race at Daytona with us, but of course, the car crashed before he could get in it, so unfortunately not."
With three more races including the nine-hour season finale at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, a lot of people would look at Krohn Racing's 13-point lead and think it is out of sight. Considering there are two regular races and that nine-hour marathon, a lot can happen. How attainable is the championship?
"I think the championship is attainable. We've got three races. The 76 car (Krohn Racing) has had a great year. They've had no bad luck. We've had a lot of bad luck, but not lately, and if we can just keep doing what we're doing, I think it's certainly attainable, yes. There are still three races to go. There's an enormous amount of points to be won."
How much emphasis is put on the driver's championship that Angelelli is vying for in relation to the team championship, or are the two titles really one in the same?
"I think they're the same. I think the driver's championship is probably the pinnacle of everything, and the team championship is equally important. We need some really good luck there to get him up front. I want to do whatever I can to give him that opportunity."
Quotes from Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley:
What do you like about racing at The Glen?
"I really like the track. It's very fast and suits my driving style, so I'm really looking forward to the race even if we've got to race on the short track. It's going to be great to be sharing the weekend with the NASCAR guys, so I'm looking forward to watching the NASCAR race on Sunday."
Are there certain aspects of the race track that suit your driving style?
"Yes. The quick corners. There are a lot of quick corners there which I really like. We run fast over there - one of the top three. I can't wait to go back."
You'll be teamed with Ryan Briscoe again at The Glen. How did your pairing with him go when you raced together back in June at The Glen and what are your expectations the second time around?
"He is an excellent driver. He's young. He has speed. I'm excited, you know. As I said, it's a weekend that everybody's really looking forward to. It's going to be very important to us. We need to win and we've done everything on our end to win, so we're going to try to beat the 76 car (Krohn Racing) and challenge them for the championship."
How does Ryan's driving style complement yours?
"Everybody's driving a way that is similar to yours. There is nothing that has to be changed. We're going to do the best that we can and also do what we can to be the best overall."
You've come a long way in the driver's championship. You're second with three races to go. Is first still attainable, or does Jorg Bergmeister have too big of a lead (39 points)?
"Everything is still possible in racing. The word 'never' has not been exchanged. Obviously, we are very well aware of the big lead he has to us, but he can have a bad race one time and his big lead is going to disappear. So really, it's still very open."
Quotes from Ryan Briscoe, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley at Watkins Glen:
It says on your website that Watkins Glen is one of your favorite tracks. What do you like about racing at The Glen?
"It's just a fantastic track. It's pretty much got everything. It's got some very fast corners. I don't know, just the elevation changes, everything. I really love the track. I've always done well at Watkins Glen, so I'm always very happy to go back there."
Are there certain aspects of the race track that suit your driving style?
"There are the high speed corners which I always love, but whether it suits my driving style I'm not really sure. I guess it's one of those tracks where you have to be quite smooth. You just really have to keep pushing and pushing. I mean, the limit at Watkins Glen seems to be a lot higher than at other tracks. The level of grip is very good, so you can really push the car really hard around the track, so that's what I love about it."
You competed in the IRL IndyCar Series race at Watkins Glen last June, where you finished an impressive third for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Is there anything you can apply from running an Indy car at Watkins Glen to running a Daytona Prototype, or is that like comparing apples to oranges?
"Well, the track is the same. When I raced the IRL car there a couple of months ago, I actually raced with Max and Wayne in the Grand Am car for SunTrust on the same weekend. I thought it was very helpful. For the most part, the track conditions may vary. The weather is always a variable up in Watkins Glen, so it's good to get extra track time out there. The braking zones are different in an Indy car. The corner speeds are different, so it changes quite a lot, but you still learn where the bumps are and how the car reacts to the curves and everything. But you can't take the reference points from your driving in an Indy car to take it to the sports car."
You'll be teamed with Max Angelelli again at The Glen. How did your pairing with him go when you raced together back in June at The Glen and what are your expectations the second time around?
"I'm really looking forward to driving with Max. I know Max is in the running for the championship and we've got to go out there and win. It's coming down to the end of the championship, and we need to get Max a victory again. It's been awhile and hopefully we can do that this weekend."
With where the SunTrust Racing Team is in terms of the championship point standings, they have to win in order to have any chance of overtaking the Krohn Racing Team. Is that a preferred situation for you, since you can go out and be as aggressive as you want?
"They're still in the running for the championship, and in any case, we've got to get the points home. Obviously, I think everyone at every race goes out to try and win every time. I'm sure (Jorg) Bergmeister will try to be a little bit more conservative. He's got a lot more to lose at the moment, so we're definitely going to be aggressive and we're going to be going out there to do all we can to win."
How does Angelelli's driving style complement your driving style?
"It's not a whole lot different. I think both Max and I are quite hard on the brakes, which therefore gives a somewhat sort of similar attitude to the car going into the corners. In the past from working at Daytona and at Watkins Glen, our set-ups always seem to compliment each other, so I think that's definitely going to be a bonus."