Watkins Glen: SunTrust Racing race report

SunTrust Moves into Rolex Series Point Lead Runner-Up Finish by Angelelli and Frisselle at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen Nets Team's Third Straight Podium, Tie for First in the Standings It wasn't the ever-elusive victory in the Sahlen's Six...

SunTrust Moves into Rolex Series Point Lead

Runner-Up Finish by Angelelli and Frisselle at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen Nets Team's Third Straight Podium, Tie for First in the Standings

It wasn't the ever-elusive victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen that they've been chasing for oh-so-long. But Wayne Taylor and the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team, featuring the driving duo of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle, are more than happy to leave Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with first place in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series standings after Saturday's runner-up finish in the latest renewal of one of America's longest-standing endurance classics.

The SunTrust team weathered major practice-session setbacks on Thursday and Friday to qualify on the inside of the second row, led laps for the fifth time in five races, and performed almost flawlessly in today's six-hour marathon to score its third-consecutive podium finish and grab a share of the 2009 Rolex Series championship lead alongside the polesitting No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, which scored its first victory of the season in a race that ended under caution.

As they have all season -- with the exception of the final three laps of the second event at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, when they were punted off the track and out of the top-five on a late-race restart -- Angelelli and Frisselle kept the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara at the front of the pack from beginning to end in today's 188-lap affair around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn former home of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix.

When all was said and done, only Pruett and the No. 01 Lexus Riley, which led a race-high 142 laps of the circuit, proved unbeatable by the SunTrust Racing machine. Pruett was able to maintain a three- to five-second lead over Angelelli over the final two hours of today's event before a caution two laps from the eventual finish clinched his series-high 20th career Rolex series victory.

"I was just pushing to the end," said Angelelli, who scored his 37th career Rolex Series podium finish in 71 starts since he and the SunTrust team joined the series in 2004. "Something a lot of people didn't realize about us this weekend is that we missed a lot of practice. We faced the race with a fairly minimal amount of (practice) laps. And I have to thank the SunTrust team because they had to make some guesses on the set-up and they really nailed it. They gave me an exceptional car and it was really perfect all the way for six hours. In the end, Scott was really pushing. We were so equal, but neither of us got much help from traffic. I just tried to stay really close to him and tried to win the race."

In the opening laps of practice Thursday, Frisselle was driven off the track at high speed by a slower GT-class competitor, which led to some 30 minutes of repair work during the two-hour session. Then, during Friday's hour-long final practice prior to qualifying, repair work to fix an oil line problem left Angelelli with just two laps of practice to try and improve the car.

Still, the Italian put in a stellar effort by qualifying the SunTrust Racing machine third on the grid. And he drove a solid opening stint in today's race, during which he moved into the lead by lap 47 and stayed there until turning the car over to Frisselle on lap 61.

The 25-year-old Frisselle resumed in sixth, but was back in the top-three before handing the car back to Angelelli just short of the four-hour mark for the final push to the finish.

"It was a good race. It was tough. Everybody out there was pushing really hard," said Frisselle, who scored his second career Rolex Series win in as many weeks at Watkins Glen when he drove the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley to victory in the Crown Royal 200 last August. "It was just a really strong effort from everybody's standpoint on the SunTrust team. The pace seemed like a short race from beginning to end. Max and Scott really put on a show there at the end, and I think it ended up pretty good for everybody involved."

The SunTrust and Ganassi teams' rise to the championship point lead was aided by the misfortune of the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley and No. 58 Brumos Porsche teams, which started the weekend first and second in the standings but took each other out of contention today, 64 laps from the finish.

"You don't want things to go terribly for other people," Frisselle said about the incident. "You want to race people clean. But, at the same time, it's a tough championship. They did have a pretty sizeable point lead already, so to watch it all evaporate like that, it really helped everyone else's championship hopes."

The third-place-finishing No. 12 Penske Racing Porsche Riley of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas finished third and is now tied for third with the No. 99 team in the standings, six points behind the SunTrust and Ganassi teams. The No. 58 Brumos Porsche team is another seven points back in fifth.

"I'm very, very happy," said Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to victories at Watkins Glen in a pair of sprint races en route to the 2005 series championship for the SunTrust team. "To me, the year is always all about the championship. This is one long race that I still want to win. But I can truly say that if there's anybody who I don't mind getting beaten by, that's the Ganassi team. Really, they have been great rivals and friends since '04. If we can't win, then I'd want them to win. Second place today is a great result. We're now tied for the championship with them. Three podiums in a row is good, and we've had four top-fours in the first five races. That's how championships are made."

After taking next weekend off, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors will be back on track for the EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday, June 20.

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Romain Dumas , Chip Ganassi , Brian Frisselle , Bob Stallings , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske