SunTrust Grabs Share of Points Lead Championship Chase Can't Get Much Tighter with Two Races Left As Angelelli, Gidley Dodge Huge Bullets in Runner-Up Finish at The Glen Max Angelelli might have felt like he was fit to be tied at...
SunTrust Grabs Share of Points Lead
Championship Chase Can't Get Much Tighter with Two Races Left As Angelelli, Gidley Dodge Huge Bullets in Runner-Up Finish at The Glen
Max Angelelli might have felt like he was fit to be tied at the conclusion of Friday night's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Crown Royal 200 at The Glen. And tied is precisely what he and the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team of Wayne Taylor Racing are at the top of the series team and driver championships with two races left after a wild runner-up finish in the two-hour, 82-lap sprint race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Raceway.
Co-driving with veteran sports car and open-wheel racer Memo Gidley, Angelelli won a furious battle for second place in the closing laps with Colin Braun in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley. Coupled with the third-place finish of the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley that has led the championship since mid-May, the SunTrust team and Angelelli now share first place in their respective championships with the No. 01 team and its lead driver, Scott Pruett, with events at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 25) and Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah (Sept. 15) set to close out the 14-race schedule for 2007.
And, just a mere four points back in both the team and driver championships are the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley team and its drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who started tonight's race from the pole for the eighth time this season and set a Rolex Series record by scoring their sixth victory of the season.
The runner-up effort was the ninth podium finish of the season for Angelelli and the SunTrust team, which just a week ago tonight captured their second victory of 2007 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. But it didn't come without a pair of scary moments, either of which easily could have ended their championship run.
On Lap 18, with Gidley running in third behind Fogarty in the No. 99 and Nic Jonsson in the No. 75, the leaders quickly came up on the lapped No. 31 car of Matt Connolly. Fogarty and Jonsson successfully cleared him, but Connolly spun directly in front of Gidley, who made front-end contact with the spinning car but was able to steer clear without any further incident. Gidley soon thereafter was clocking a series of laps that were the fastest of the race to that point.
"He (Connolly) was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and, basically, was so much slower and so much off the pace he couldn't afford to wait until he exited the corner and he just got hung up, leaving us nowhere to go," Gidley said. "It was unfortunate, but I got very lucky because it could have ended our race right there. The SunTrust car actually felt really good after that and it really started coming around, and the Pontiac was ripping, so I was really happy with the stint. I just wish I could've gotten around Nic Jonsson because we were definitely faster and I could've closed the gap (on Fogarty) a little bit at that point."
Gidley pitted under yellow on Lap 33 for tires, fuel and to hand the SunTrust car over to Angelelli. Quick work by the SunTrust crew got Angelelli back on track in second place ahead of the No. 75, now driven by Braun. Angelelli dogged Gurney in the race-leading No. 99 over the next 47 laps while holding off occasional challenges from Braun, including during the race's final restart on Lap 72. On the next-to-last lap of the race, Gurney and Angelelli came up on the No. 76 car of Tracy Krohn, which was 16 laps down at the time. Krohn first made contact with Gurney, then with Angelelli, and held the leaders up long enough in the process for Braun to get a run on Angelelli and momentarily slip into second place. A determined Angelelli fought back to win a drag race down the lengthy front straight -- contacted repeatedly by Braun, including one final time entering the fast, sweeping right-hand turn one. The final impact spun Braun off track and out of third place while Angelelli was able to continue and hold onto the runner-up spot. Braun's departure from the lead pack enabled Pruett in the No. 01 to slide up one position from fourth to third.
"It was the last laps, and losing that position in that situation, I just couldn't stand it," said Angelelli, who was irate with the two Krohn drivers when he exited the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac after the race. "I overtook (Braun) and I just felt that he hit me, and then I heard he spun.
"Obviously, our goal tonight was to confirm our speed compared to the 99. I think we are on pace again with the 99. I am looking forward to the next two races. We are tied in the championship points. It's nice to win, but finishing second is a good result. We almost lost the second position after such a maneuver by the Krohn team. They have to be respectful of the fact we are fighting for the championship. They are not involved in it, so it would be the right thing to do to let us fight it out among ourselves."
"We came in here second in the championship," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "Clearly this weekend, we could see the 99 car was fast again. I thought through the race if we run second to them and be ahead of the 01, that would put us in a good position. We still have a four-point lead over the 99. There was something that happened on the last lap that I think was very unfortunate. However, we've come out of this being joint leaders with the 01 car and four points ahead of the 99 car. So now we just have to work harder. We're having a lot of fun with this. We're really enjoying this. This is great racing. And we're going to a track that I love the most -- Infineon. It's a great place to be."