Watkins Glen II: SunTrust Racing preview

SUNTRUST RACING Crown Royal 200 at The Glen Preview WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2009) -- The "Solid Is Lightning Fast" tour of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series circuit takes the stage at historic Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for ...

Crown Royal 200 at The Glen Preview

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2009) -- The "Solid Is Lightning Fast" tour of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series circuit takes the stage at historic Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for Friday night's annual Crown Royal 200 with defending race-winner Brian Frisselle in the cockpit of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing, and he and co-driver Max Angelelli locked in a fierce, three-team championship battle with four races remaining and the season's most electrifying event set to kick off a full weekend of NASCAR racing.

The last time Angelelli and Frisselle helped set the stage for their NASCAR brethren, they drove the SunTrust Racing machine to a thrilling victory on the Fourth of July before a huge crowd at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It was part of the first-ever same-day Rolex Series doubleheader with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that concluded with that night's annual Coke Zero 400.

Angelelli and Frisselle arrive at Watkins Glen just one point behind Rolex Series co-leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team, and Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing team. They'll have quite a history at Watkins Glen to bank on as they look to leapfrog their fellow, perennial championship contenders in the standings, like they did at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June.

The SunTrust team, which debuted a new, silver paint scheme at Daytona with the words "Solid Is Lightning Fast" emblazoned on the sidepods as part of a four-race promotion of SunTrust's line of mobile and online banking products, has enjoyed great success at Watkins Glen since joining the Rolex Series in 2004. Angelelli and Wayne Taylor co-drove to a pair of victories at the former home of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix en route to the 2005 series championship. In all, the SunTrust team has finished on the podium nine times in 11 starts at The Glen, including Angelelli and Frisselle's co-drive to second place in the annual Sahlen's Six-Hour marathon.

Since then, the team has been able to stay right in the thick of the championship chase despite enduring somewhat of a roller-coaster ride of finishes at the last three events. It began with an ill-timed caution flag that ruined a potential race-winning effort at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, followed by the victory at Daytona, and then a 14th-place finish courtesy of an off-course excursion three laps into the race three weekends ago at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Perhaps the most motivated member of the SunTrust team this week will be the 25-year-old Frisselle, who suffered the misfortune of that early off-course incident at Barber. The Southern California native and resident of Aspen, Colo., looks to duplicate his success at last year's Crown Royal 200, which he and then-teammate Mark Wilkins thoroughly dominated in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley. Frisselle qualified on the pole in record-breaking time by nearly a half-second over the entire field, and he and Wilkins led 79 of the 82 race laps to grab their second victory together in as many weeks.

As is always the case in the Rolex Series' traditional August shootout on the 2.45-mile NASCAR short course at The Glen, "Lightning Fast" will be a the usual prerequisite for a "Solid" finish, and the SunTrust team is hoping history stays on its side. Needless to say, the words on the side of the SunTrust racecar will serve as a constant reminder to all.

Practice for Friday night's Crown Royal 200 begins at 12:30 p.m. EDT Thursday with qualifying set for 4 p.m. The green flag flies for Friday's 200-mile (or 2-hour, 45-minute, whichever comes first) race at 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 Ford Dallara:

The SunTrust Ford Dallara was working well for you at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June. Do you expect the same kind of success on the shorter track this weekend?

"Watkins Glen, the short track, is always a compromise. It's not that cut-and-dried like Daytona. At Daytona, you go one way with your setup. You don't have many options. At The Glen, you have different options. All options point toward low downforce. But the point is, how low you can go -- how low do you want to go? So, really, we'll decide after the three practices. We'll see where we are, what we need. We'll check the other cars' top speeds and we will make our decision. From my perspective, my experience, it will be great to go really low on downforce, have a good top speed, and basically command the race. But in order to do that, we need to start in front and be leading the race."

The Rolex Series takes you to some very historic tracks, like Watkins Glen and Daytona. And you also race at some very impressive new circuits like Barber and New Jersey. Do you sense the history when you arrive at a track for a race?

"When we go to the Glen, we always stop under the bridge, going under the track, and look at the blue rail. You know, the barriers. We tell ourselves that they are still the same, the ones they were using in the Formula 1 days. We love history. We love talking about the old days, the NASCAR old days, the Formula 1 old days. There is so much history at The Glen and Daytona, the battles between Ferrari and Ford and Porsche, the Daytona 24-Hour. Going to Daytona, for example, we remind ourselves and think about 20 years ago, 30 years ago, what those people were doing. We are so proud to be part of that and remind ourselves of it all the time. But then, when we go to Barber and other racetracks that are brand new, I think we would like to make history. We think about how, when we talk to our children and grandchildren about going to Barber 20 years from now, we are writing history at the moment, I think, for those tracks."

Brian Frisselle, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

What's on your mind as you head back to The Glen this weekend?

"I just want to have a good, solid race and kind of redeem myself for what happened at Barber. We need to get as many points as possible because the championship is tight and it's getting to be crunch time. Hopefully, we can come away with a win but, if nothing else, we need to stay as close as we can in the points with the other guys. The (No.) 99 guys always seem to be strong at The Glen. The (No.) 01, as well. We learned some things in the test (day after the race) at Barber, so the SunTrust car can be considerably better than the last time we tested on the short track at Watkins Glen (in June)."

Take us back to a year ago this weekend, when you and Mark Wilkins simply dominated the race in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley. Was it as easy as it looked?

"It was a great weekend. Mark and I were just so focused on trying to win the race on pace after Montreal because we got a bit lucky there and wanted to show everybody we could beat them straight up. We came to The Glen and the car was an absolute dream to drive. I had the pole by a half-second on entire field. It was one of those special weekends where everything worked, everything clicked. I'm definitely looking to reproduce that with the SunTrust team this weekend."

How similar, or different, is the approach to racing on the NASCAR short course at The Glen versus the long course you race on in the six-hour event?

"The car's setup is quite a bit different for the short course at The Glen. The downforce level is different. It's much lower on the short course, and that changes things quite a bit. The GTs will be racing with us, which definitely changes the complexion of the race. They could make for an interesting race and very difficult because our closing speeds on the short course are very huge, especially in the uphill esses. We'll have to be extra careful in the race. Traffic is going to be a big thing. During my second stint at the six-hour, the (No. 12) Penske car was in front of me leaving the pits and got by one of the GTs that just came out of pit lane, and I didn't. He built a four- to five-second gap right away, and the gap stayed that way the rest of my stint. You can't afford to lose that kind of time to any of the top guys. So there may be a little bit of a sense of desperation to get by the GTs during the race for some people. But for me, in the starting role, I've just got to be smart and bring the car back in good condition and let Max do his thing."

Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team:

You head to The Glen with just one point separating the top-three teams in the championship. How important is Friday night's Crown Royal 200?

"Like every event we go to, it's really important. The points are so tight, and it's not really just the three of us up front. There are two other teams (No. 12 Penske Racing and No. 6 Michael Shank Racing) that are only 16 points behind. This is one of the events we love doing. Obviously, Watkins Glen has been good to Max and Brian and me, and to SunTrust over the years. It's imperative that we win some races from here on out because there's not a big spread between first and third. Going on what's happened in the last couple of races, it always seems to be the same cars up front. We really have to do everything 100 percent correct -- pit stops, driver changes, everything. It's incredibly important that we leave Watkins Glen in the vicinity of where we are now in the points, hopefully ahead. Even if it is ahead, it's not going to be a lot ahead because the point differential between finishing positions is not very much."

With Friday's race being 200 miles or two hours, is there more of a sense of desperation?

"The thing about these Grand-Am events now, no matter what event you watch, I think you'll see that everybody is driving at ten-tenths, and everybody on every team is doing everything at ten-tenths. The series is so competitive. I've never seen any series as competitive as this. The big thing is, track position is everything. It is incredibly hard to pass cars in these types of races, so track position is key. Where we start the race is key, and our pit stops have got to be absolutely flawless. Whether it's a two-hour, a three-hour, or a six-hour, we approach them all the same."

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Mark Wilkins , Brian Frisselle , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank , Felix Sabates
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing