Watkins Glen: SunTrust Racing preview

SUNTRUST RACING Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen Preview WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2009) -- The last time SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli saw his now-teammate Brian Frisselle at the legendary Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road circuit,...

Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen Preview

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2009) -- The last time SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli saw his now-teammate Brian Frisselle at the legendary Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road circuit, the young Southern California-born sports car racer was spraying victory champagne after winning his second career Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event in as many weeks.

That was last August, when Frisselle and the No. 61 AIM Autosport team thoroughly dominated the Crown Royal 200, starting with Frisselle's record-breaking pole qualifying lap and finishing with a race-high 79 of 82 race laps led at the former home of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix.

Angelelli, the Italian driving ace who, himself, has tasted victory at Watkins Glen with then-co-driver and now-team owner Wayne Taylor en route to the 2005 Rolex Series Championship, hopes to recreate the magic once again this weekend when he and Frisselle take the reins of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing in Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

History would suggest another strong finish for the SunTrust team this weekend at Watkins Glen, where it has raced to a podium spot in each of the last three Sahlen's Six-Hour events and nine of the last 11 events overall, including victories in the 2005 CompUSA 200 and Crown Royal 250 at the hands of Angelelli and Taylor.

Victory at the Sahlen's Six-Hour, however, has managed to elude the SunTrust team since it joined the Rolex Series in 2004, much to the dismay of Taylor, the three-time sports car champion who has won at each of the world's other major endurance classics -- the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the inaugural Petit Le Mans. But he'll be more than happy to accept the winner's trophy as team owner of one of the most successful programs ever to compete in the Rolex Series.

A year ago this weekend, victory at Watkins Glen was the farthest thing from Taylor and his team's mind after a transporter fire destroyed its new Dallara chassis and all of its equipment on its way home from a race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif., less than three weeks prior. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from the racing community, which came forth with a replacement transporter, pit equipment and all the necessary odds and ends it took to get back to the track, coupled with the never-say-die attitude of the SunTrust crew that resurrected a Riley chassis that hadn't turned a wheel in more than four months, the team hardly missed a beat.

In true, fairy tale-like fashion, Angelelli surprised all by qualifying the Riley on the pole, and the SunTrust team went on to run up front throughout the Sahlen's Six-Hour, and even led laps before bringing home a hard-earned, third-place finish for its first podium of 2008.

A year later, order is restored for the SunTrust team, which has been on quite a roll since late last season, recording a race win, three seconds, a third, and a fourth-place finish in its last seven outings and currently ranks third in the championship. Another podium finish is certainly high on the wish list. A long-awaited victory in the Sahlen's Six-Hour would warrant a little taste of champagne.

Practice for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen begins Thursday afternoon with qualifying set for Friday at 1:15 p.m. EDT. Race time Saturday for the 6-hour endurance classic is 2:15 p.m. EDT. SPEED-TV's live coverage begins with a two-hour segment at 2 p.m. and will close with a 2½-hour segment beginning at 6 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:

In terms of average finishing position, Watkins Glen is among the best tracks in SunTrust Racing's history in the Rolex Series. Yet, victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen has been elusive. Why is that?

"For whatever reason, we've never won that race. I desperately wanted to win it (co-driving) with Wayne because I know it's the only big race that's missing from his resume. I really wanted to help him get it, and we have always been close, leading many laps, but we never won it. I even forced him to get back into driving a couple of years ago because I felt we could have done it then, but we just missed it. This year, I will not think that intensely about getting the win and maybe, just maybe, we will have a very nice surprise by the end of the evening. Our focus is on the championship, so if we get our fourth podium in a row in the six-hour race, then that will only help us at the end of the season, which is when it matters the most. If we are fortunate to get a win in the process, that will be very nice."

You had to go back to the Riley chassis for last year's Sahlen's Six-Hour but were able to race the Dallara in the August sprint race on the shorter NASCAR road course. Will that help the Dallara in terms of setup for the longer, endurance course?

"Unfortunately, the long course and the short course are completely different. The problem is that all the aero settings are different, the gear ratios, the spring settings, the mechanical setups, etc. So you can't really use the short course as a base for setting up for the long course. But we have been working really hard with our engineers preparing a setup for this race that will work. Fortunately, we have a very nice simulation program that should allow us to get our setup close right away. So, hopefully, we will be competitive from the very start of practice on Thursday. It's a good thing that we have a lot of practice time Thursday, and then again on Friday, before we have to qualify the car. My gut feeling is that we have some work to do to be sure we are good. I think we will be good."

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

Having won the last time you visited Watkins Glen International, is there a feeling of extra excitement as you make your return with your new team this weekend?

"I'm always excited to go to Watkins Glen. I've always loved that place. I've had some of the best races in my career there. It's an all-around great track and it's always a great feeling to go back. It's got a lot of very unique corners, and overall the track tends to be on the high-speed side, which plays right into my driving style. I won there in the sprint race last August, so things will be different this weekend. But the SunTrust team has a great history in this race, and I'd love to be the co-driver who helps get SunTrust its first six-hour race win there."

You posted your best qualifying effort of the young season in the last event at Laguna Seca, but now your co-driver, Max, will get to do the qualifying with this weekend's longer race format. Is that somewhat disappointing?

"Not at all. I'm a team player all the way and I know my role with the SunTrust team. This weekend, we'll be in endurance mode, so things are obviously going to be different. Most weekends, I come in and think about qualifying setup and laying down a fast lap and maintaining track position the first part of the race before handing the car off to Max. Now, Max will get to handle the qualifying and the first part of the race, which is a rare treat for him. I love watching him drive and it's going to be fun to see him qualify the car. I like the challenge of a longer race. The driving stints will be longer, and we'll get to do a lot more driving by the time all is said and done. Hopefully, we can go out and win this thing because a win in the Sahlen's Six-Hour is a feather in any driver's cap.

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

Considering the circumstances under which you and the SunTrust team arrived at Watkins Glen for last year's Sahlen's Six-Hour, does this season seem like a breath of fresh air?

"I really don't like to think about it because I only tend to look forward. I don't like to think in the past. But, obviously, what happened last year was absolute devastation. But, thanks to the incredible amount of help that came from all corners of the racing community, we were able to get through it with our hard-working group of individuals that make up this SunTrust team. Now, a year later, it might be an understatement to say that things have settled down and we've gotten ourselves into a very nice racing groove as we try to bring SunTrust another championship. Our car is working well. Our team is the best, in my opinion. We have great drivers, great sponsors. This is how it should be. Now, we just need to start winning some more races and it'll feel even more back to normal."

You've come so close on so many occasions to winning the Sahlen's Six-Hour. What do you think it will take to finally chalk up a win in one of the most prestigious endurance races?

"We just have to keep doing what we've been doing there and it will come. As has been the case since we started this program, I think we have the car and the team and the drivers capable of winning the race this year. We've always run well in this race. We've led laps. We've dominated. Somehow, a late caution, or some sort of tire trouble or something out of our control has kept us from winning it, so far. On a very personal level, it's a very bittersweet feeling because, while we run well at Watkins Glen, it's the only one of the classic sports car races that I've never won as a driver. Now that my role has changed, I'll just have to win it as a team owner. We've been on the podium three times in a row in this race. We'll have to do what we know how to do and this just might be the year we win it."

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Brian Frisselle
Teams Wayne Taylor Racing