WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 5, 2008) -- Do not adjust your set. Sports car racing fans in and around the greater Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International area who are accustomed to seeing a blue No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype making its way...
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 5, 2008) -- Do not adjust your set. Sports car racing fans in and around the greater Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International area who are accustomed to seeing a blue No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype making its way around the historic racing circuit will witness SunTrust Racing horsepower of a different color for the first time during Friday night's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Crown Royal 200.
This year's all-new Dallara chassis, featuring its striking tangerine-based SunTrust paint scheme, was supposed to make its Watkins Glen debut in June's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. But a horrific transporter fire while en route from the previous race in Monterey, Calif., to Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) headquarters in Indianapolis destroyed the original Dallara introduced at Homestead, Fla., in late-March, as well as all of the team's tools, equipment, spare parts and apparel.
A tremendous outpouring of support from the Grand-Am community, and the availability of the team's old Riley chassis that was on sale and merely occupying space on the shop floor since finishing fifth at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, made it possible for the team to not miss a beat and still be able to compete at the six-hour event.
Surprisingly perhaps to most Rolex Series followers but certainly not to the former series champions and perennial top-three finishers in the season-ending championship since joining the fray in 2004, Max Angelelli and the team worked some racing magic by qualifying the Riley on the pole that weekend. Angelelli and co-driver Michael Valiante then enjoyed a relatively trouble-free six-hour run to grab their first podium finish of the season.
After a second outing by the old Riley at the following event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, a replacement SunTrust Dallara arrived just in time for July's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona, where Valiante didn't waste any time flexing the new car's muscles by qualifying third and working his way into the lead in the early going before a blown tire took the team out of contention.
Angelelli and Valiante arrive at The Glen this week after back-to-back sixth-place finishes -- most recently last Friday at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the previous race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., where Valiante put SunTrust on the pole for the third time in nine events. Only tire issues on race day at Barber and brake issues at Montreal kept the SunTrust Racing machine from reaching its full, race-winning potential during those two outings.
This weekend, the 3.4-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen layout customarily run during the June six-hour event gets shortened to 2.45 miles with the running of NASCAR's Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. That lightning-fast version of the historic track, say Angelelli and Valiante, should suit the Dallara just fine as one of the strengths exhibited by the chassis that is still in its relative infancy is its ability to carry speed through high-speed corners, like the ones on tap for this weekend at The Glen.
Needless to say, on a track where SunTrust has raced its way to the podium all but once in 10 previous outings, including a pair of victories by Angelelli and Wayne Taylor during their 2005 Rolex Series championship season, the entire SunTrust Racing camp is very much looking forward to this one.
Safe to say, if you don't see Angelelli and Valiante on the podium after the dust has settled, you just may think about adjusting your set.
Practice for Friday night's 200-mile (or two-hour, whichever comes first) race begins at 11:30 a.m. EDT Thursday with qualifying set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Race time Friday is 6:30 p.m. with SPEED-TV's delayed broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. 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 Pontiac Dallara:
You scored what many people probably considered a highly improbable pole position and podium finish in the Sahlen's Six-Hour event at The Glen this past June. Now you're finally getting the chance to race at The Glen in the new Dallara. What are your expectations?
"I'll have to say I am very excited because I feel the track is going to suit the SunTrust Dallara pretty well. Talking to our engineers, it will be a challenge to make set-up decisions since we have not been there with this car and the car is still so new to us. But we definitely know that track and we have had a lot of success there in the past. We'll have a couple of hours of practice before we qualify on Thursday, and then another hour after qualifying. That is the time we have to make changes that we might need to on our setup. But, no matter what, we are very excited to go to The Glen with our new Dallara."
The last time you and the SunTrust team visited Watkins Glen, it was almost a magical weekend as you won the pole and finished on the podium with your old Riley chassis, and it was the team's first race back after the transporter fire. Does that give you any confidence, or any other special feelings coming back this weekend?
"Looking back on that weekend in June, I think it was very special. When you consider that effort came together from nothing in about two weeks' time, I think it was a good reward to all of the people on this team for all their hard work after all that they had been through. And it would not have been possible without a lot of help from all of our racing friends. We had to take a very simple approach to the race that weekend because we did not have a lot of the parts and components that we did in the past. We pretty much just added fuel and new tires and went racing. There was not a lot of pressure on the team, since nobody was expecting much from us. It was a huge effort just to make it to the race. So whatever happened on the track was a bonus. As it turned out, we won the pole, and we finished third in the race with no problems the whole six hours. Definitely, that is one weekend I will never forget."
Are there any differences to how you approach a race at The Glen between the short course you're using this weekend and the long course you used for the six-hour race in June?
"It doesn't really matter if you're running the short course or the long course. Watkins Glen has always maintained its status in the racing world as a fast track. The way we've always set up the car there, and the way I like to drive, it makes it pretty exciting for me every time I come back. I'm not worried at all that we haven't raced the Dallara there before. We need to create something this weekend. It's time to forget about good luck, bad luck and any other kind of luck. It's time to go out and take charge and produce some good results for the rest of the season."
Michael Valiante, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:
It's back to The Glen, where you're with the team that has been on the podium in nine of its last 10 races. You even contributed to that streak in your first appearance with the team this past June. Any special thoughts for this weekend?
"I'm really looking forward to it. We seem to still be learning new things with the new car that we need to keep working to improve, but it's definitely getting better and better. There are only a few more races this year, so there's definitely a huge desire on our part to win at least one race before it's over. I believe Watkins Glen might be the place to make that happen, considering how well this car likes the high-speed corners. We're getting a better handle on the car more and more as we go, especially after Montreal. We're doing all sorts of things to continually improve it. It would be great to finish this season on a high note by stringing together some really, really good finishes. That's entirely possible with this car and this team, and I can't think of a better place to start than Watkins Glen."
Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team:
You've had a lot of success at Watkins Glen over the last four-and-a-half seasons. What is it about the place that's allowed you to do so well there?
"We've always had good cars there. We've never been there with the Dallara, so I'm very interested to see how this weekend unfolds. I think the car should be good there because it really likes high-speed corners. And we'll be running the short (NASCAR) version of the road circuit, so it will give us plenty of high-speed stuff. It's a fantastic track and I've always loved driving there. And I know anyone who's ever been there -- our own Max and Michael included -- has to feel like it's one of their favorite tracks, anywhere."
The team struggled with a braking issue in last Friday's race up in Montreal. Is that something that could create a problem at Watkins Glen, as well?
"The tracks are completely different, so I don't believe we'll have that braking issue at Watkins Glen. Montreal has such a combination of long, fast straights that lead to heavy braking zones that you really put a huge burden on your brakes. It turned out a lot of teams were having braking issues at Montreal, which we didn't realize at the time since we are so focused on our car when we're in race mode. Watkins Glen, especially the short course, is wide open with lots of high-speed corners. What we've seen from our new Dallara is that kind of layout is what the car seems to like best, at this point. I'm really looking forward to it."
-credit: -- www.SunTrustRacing.com --