Watkins Glen: SunTrust Racing race report

Third Consecutive Podium Finish for SunTrust Just Five Days After Their Dominating Victory on Memorial Day at Lime Rock, Angelelli, Taylor Power Their Way to Second at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen It's been a good week, to say the least, for...

Third Consecutive Podium Finish for SunTrust Just Five Days After Their Dominating Victory on Memorial Day at Lime Rock,

Angelelli, Taylor Power Their Way to Second at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen

It's been a good week, to say the least, for the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor. It started with a dominating victory in the inaugural Memorial Day Classic for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes on Monday at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. And it ended with a solid runner-up finish in Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Angelelli, the sports-car-racing veteran and former series champion, led on three separate occasions with Taylor, his 20-year-old co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing during today's six-hour endurance marathon on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road circuit, thanks in large part to stellar pit work by the SunTrust Racing crew that gained the lead for Angelelli twice during the latter stages of the race. And, they had little trouble keeping the rest of the field behind them throughout the 191-lap affair, except for one car-and-driver combination - the championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas that went on to win this event for the third year in a row and scored its fourth victory in the last five races this season.

Both at the four-hour mark and the five-hour mark, Angelelli moved from the top-three into the lead during yellow-flag pit stops. But, in a classic case of dejà vu, he was overtaken mere laps after the respective restarts by Pruett in the No. 01 BMW after futile attempts to hold him off. Nonetheless, Angelelli was able to stave off the challenges of the competitors behind him - most notably the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stalling Racing Chevrolet Riley of Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, whose 58 laps led was surpassed only by the Ganassi car's 121 on this day.

"We were pushing - the 01, the 10 and the 99 - all three of us were really pushing for the last hour-and-a-half, especially," said Angelelli, who sprayed champagne on the Watkins Glen podium for the fifth consecutive year after the Sahlen's six-hour. "It was an incredible pace and I gave it everything I had. Like the 01, we believe we always have a good car here at The Glen. We always fight. But this year, I think he was playing with me, like the cat with the mouse. He had much more. I tried. Definitely, I tried. Last year, I felt like I had more of a chance. But this year, he was clearly faster. The very first time I was ahead of him, I could see, easily, he was playing with me. In fact, I told the guys that he's playing with me. He's blowing me away on the straights. He's on another planet and there's not much more you can do. So, we were first in class. We were first in DP (Daytona Prototype), and they were first in 'DP-Plus.'"

Starting sixth on the grid after a less-than-satisfying qualifying effort on Friday, Angelelli played it conservatively during his opening stint but was still able to work his way up to fourth when he first pitted under green for fuel and tires just short of the one-hour mark of the race. Soon after he resumed in fifth place, a series of light rain showers passed through the area, during which he was able to work his way up to second place on a wet track by the time he pitted at the one-hour, 55-minute mark to hand the SunTrust car over to Taylor.

One lap after resuming, Taylor was called into the pits so the team could check on a throttle pedal issue, which dropped him back to seventh place. But he managed to take advantage of a well-handling racecar to work his way into the lead by the time he pitted for tires and fuel shortly after the three-hour mark. Taylor was running third, closing quickly on the second-place No. 99 Chevrolet of Johnson, when the caution flag flew just short of the four-hour mark. That's when he pitted to hand the car back over to Angelelli and the SunTrust crew put the Italian driving ace back out on track in first place.

"The SunTrust car was very strong," Taylor said. "In traffic, it was really difficult to follow closely, so I think I lost a bit of time with that. But once we got in clean air, I think we had the fastest car, other than the 01 car. So, I think it was a very good day. We can come back next year after learning a lot today and, hopefully, try to finally win this race. I've got so many good teachers around me. The team, between Max and Travis (Jacobson, technical director) and Simon (Hodgson, general manager) - every single person on the team - I'm learning from everybody and everybody's always helping me, looking to make me better because, if I'm better, the whole team does better. I think I'm really enjoying it and just trying to absorb as much as I can. I'm not a solid veteran, by any means, but I hope to be, soon. We've had two really good results this week - my first win, and my first second. So, I'm really excited. I think we had a second-place car today. And when you have a second-place car and you finish second, that's all you can really ask for."

With the runner-up finish, the SunTrust team solidified its second-place position in the championship standings. With 166 points, the team is 24 markers behind the championship-leading Ganassi team with six races remaining. The SunTrust team is 13 points ahead of the third-place No. 59 Brumos Porsche of Darren Law and David Donohue.

"I think it was a great result," said team owner Wayne Taylor, who won twice at The Glen co-driving with Angelelli in the 2005 sprint races en route to that year's Rolex Series championship. "I especially loved the fact that our team twice put us into the lead with perfect pit stops. Everybody was fantastic. Max did a great job. He could match Pruett, but it was clear there was nothing he could do in the straightaways. I think everybody could see that. We have to work harder, I guess, to figure out how we can go faster in the straightaways, if that's possible. But it was another podium - three podiums in a row and a nice second-place in the championship. You always hate to be second, but it's better than being out of the top-three. Ricky did a great job. He was quite a way back during his run and he was reeling in Jimmie Johnson and then the yellow came out. So, both Ricky and Max, at times, were the fastest on the track. I'm happy for the team and I'm happy for another podium. The only thing is, how in the world are we going to win this six-hour race?"

Next up is the annual EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington two weeks hence, on Saturday, June 19.

-source: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Jimmie Johnson , Darren Law , David Donohue , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates , Ricky Taylor
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Wayne Taylor Racing