Watkins Glen: SunTrust Racing preview

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2010) -- There is no rest for the well-rested, and there is little time for celebration for SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor as the most recent winners on the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series circuit...

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2010) -- There is no rest for the well-rested, and there is little time for celebration for SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor as the most recent winners on the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series circuit head to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for Saturday's annual running of the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

Angelelli, Taylor and their fellow Rolex Series competitors ended their third four-week layoff of the season Monday with an intense, one-day show called the Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. The veteran Angelelli and his 20-year-old co-driver enjoyed the closest thing there is to a perfect day by starting on the front row, leading a race-high 95 of 174 laps around the 1.5-mile, seven-turn road course, and powering their way with grit and determination to their first victory of the year. It was the 15th career Rolex Series win for Angelelli since he and SunTrust joined the circuit in 2004, and the first in 25 career starts for Taylor, the son of team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor who in the last three races has also achieved his first career pole (Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.) and his first career podium (third place at Virginia International Raceway in Alton).

Next up on Saturday, a mere five days after victory at tiny Lime Rock Park, is the second-longest race on the schedule at the wide open spaces of the 3.4-mile, 11-turn former home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix and a highly coveted event in the SunTrust camp where victory has eluded the team and sponsor in its six previous attempts.

Coming off Monday's first-place finish, Angelelli, Taylor and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing are hoping attempt No. 7 to win the Watkins Glen six-hour marathon is the lucky one. They've come dangerously close in five of their six previous June outings at The Glen with runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2009 and consecutive third-place runs in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In addition, Angelelli qualified the SunTrust car on the pole for the 2004, 2005 and 2008 events, and the team has led laps in all six six-hour races it has contested for a grand total of 163 laps at the point, including a race-high 63 in 2004, and a race-high 36 in 2006.

Another podium finish at The Glen this weekend would certainly bode well in the season-long championship chase, where Angelelli and Taylor moved into second place with their win at Lime Rock and took a huge bite out of the commanding lead held by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley. The SunTrust team gained 17 points in the standings Monday on the Ganassi team, which retired in last place after a first-lap skirmish, and now sits 21 points out of the lead (155-134) with seven races remaining.

Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

You had to work incredibly hard for the victory at Lime Rock on Monday and you were visibly spent after the race. Now you've got to turn around and race a six-hour marathon just five days later. How is it going for you?

"I'm actually feeling great because Watkins Glen is a racetrack that has been good to us and it's a race and a track that I always look forward to going to. If it would've been another track where we're normally not been competitive, I wouldn't be feeling this good. But, going there this week with a win in our pocket, it's positive. Very positive."

How special was that win on Monday for you, considering you and Wayne have won so many races together, and you've known Ricky since he was just a little boy?

"Ricky was just 8 or 9 years old when I first started driving with Wayne. He has grown up right before my eyes during my long relationship with Wayne. Back then, if somebody would have told me that Wayne and I would win races and be champions, and that some day we would be partners in a race team and that Ricky and I would be driving together and winning races and fighting for the championship, it would have been very difficult to believe or imagine. I was not even close to imagining those kinds of things back then. Not even close. So, it's been extremely special, this feeling that we have right now."

Were you surprised at how well things worked for the SunTrust team on Monday, considering it was the first time the big prototypes have ever raced at Lime Rock?

"I was a little bit surprised because I knew that, in order to win the race, we had to have everything work together just right and that it wasn't going to be easy for anybody. The strategy by the SunTrust team was incredible. I did not understand a single thing about it while I was in the car, but they managed to put me in the right place at the right time the whole race. They were telling me the lap times and the gaps I needed to run. They said 'You need to run this many seconds a lap,' and they were really working me through the traffic, and it worked. I felt like I was just a character in a video game and they were the players. I was not even asking why they wanted me to do what they were asking, or what was going on. If I would've asked, I wouldn't have understood at the time, anyway. That would have just put something more in my head to think about. My job is to drive the car. Sometimes, I'll ask what's going on, and whether this is bad for us or good for us. But on Monday, I just worried about driving. The team was just fantastic. And, because the Ganassi team had problems, we made up a huge gap in the points. But we still have a long way to go."

Now that the points situation is looking better than it has all season, you're headed to Watkins Glen. Talk about that a bit.

"It is great to be back in the hunt. But it is way too early to predict or sort of expect certain conclusions. The 01 (Ganassi team) is the most difficult car to beat, and they prove it every race. I'm not expecting another weekend like this one, where the 01 picks up a 13th-place finish and we win the race. What I'm expecting is a fight every single race and we need to take the championship one race at a time. We have to try to get the best out of every single race. I'm relieved because we're now going to racetracks where it is a little easier to race and pass cars. On Saturday, we have six hours to get the job done. We will have lot of pit stops, a lot of driver changes, a lot of tire changes, and those are things that can play in our favor because we have a fantastic pit crew. Having so many pit stops, we can really gain track position and time.

Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

The milestones are coming at a rapid pace, all of a sudden. Is it overwhelming in any way, or just what you expected?

"It's a little bit of everything. Before this year, I hadn't had any of those things, and all of a sudden, in just a few races, the SunTrust team has gotten me a pole, a podium and a win, all in a row. It hasn't sunk in, yet, in a lot of ways because we've been going flat out, going fast the last few weeks, working hard to put ourselves in championship contention. Did I expect it? I don't know, sometimes, because I can doubt myself and it takes Max and Simon and Travis to get me back on track. Right now, the SunTrust car is so strong every weekend, and Max and are I working well together. Our strategy and our pit stops are clicking. We need to keep putting them all together like we have been and keep chipping away at the 01 car's lead. Watkins Glen is a great place for us to be going, right now. I really enjoy the event and the race and especially the track. It's really fast. There are a lot of good passing opportunities. You can get by the GT cars without too much bumping and banging like we had to do at Lime Rock. I think about all the history, the old F1 track. My dad ran the old track. When I was racing in Skip Barber, I was able to drive on the city street course. That was really cool."

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

Monday was a pretty emotional day for you with the victory at Lime Rock -- SunTrust's and Max's 15th, and the continuation of a streak for Ricky that has seen him get his first pole, podium and victory in a span of three races. How has that been for you, and are you surprised by the progress Ricky has been making so quickly?

"One thing that really put it all in perspective was that, 15 years ago to that day, I won the IMSA race at Lime Rock in a Ferrari, and there were fans who came up and told me they remember that day, and they remember me carrying Ricky around on my shoulder. He was only 5 at the time, so that seems pretty incredible to think that someday Ricky would be at the same track, winning in our car, with our team and our car, with Max. I couldn't have imagined something like that, then. Obviously, we're on quite a roll right now. We had a podium before the race. We've set fastest race laps and we've had two poles in the first five races. So, we've got a really good car. We have a fantastic team and two really good drivers. I truly didn't expect Ricky to be quite at this pace. I always thought he was ready for this, but he has surprised me at every single race, so far. One thing I've noticed is that he's learning quickly. He's like a sponge. He's looking at every bit of data and he's focused on every little thing Max is doing. I think he's further ahead than even I thought he was going to be. Thanks to Max for putting his arm around him and helping him when he's needed it. Simon (Hodgson, general manager) and Travis (Jacobson, technical director) have been great with Ricky. It's always difficult when a son comes on to drive for a team owner. But I've always tried to make a clear distinction in that he's simply a driver. The pressure has been on him, but he's had a pole and a win in five races, so he seems to be thriving on it."

-source: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Skip Barber , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates , Ricky Taylor
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Wayne Taylor Racing