SunTrust Driver Wayne Taylor Gearing Up for Daytona IROC Race Daytona Beach, Florida (February 13, 2006) -- Grand American Road racing champion Wayne Taylor spent the majority of last week practicing for his inaugural effort at the International...
SunTrust Driver Wayne Taylor Gearing Up for Daytona IROC Race
Daytona Beach, Florida (February 13, 2006) -- Grand American Road racing champion Wayne Taylor spent the majority of last week practicing for his inaugural effort at the International Race of Champions (IROC) race at Daytona International Speedway. Three days on the high banks of Daytona and driving a front engine race car for the first time was a challenging experience for the 49-year-old Taylor.
"I accepted the offer to drive in IROC because it was such an honor," said Taylor, an Altamonte Springs, Florida resident. "But I have to admit, I had some concern about driving these cars. Everything I ever learned in the past about driving a race car, I had to throw out. I've basically had to learn everything all over again. The IROC people have been fantastic in coaching me on the differences of driving these cars and on racing on just the superspeedway. I've been getting better and better. I really love it."
Round 1 (of 4) of the Crown Royal IROC Series, an invitation-only series which features 12 of the best drivers in the world competing in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds in a 40-lap sprint race, will kickoff the 2006 season on the 2.5-mile tri-oval Daytona superspeedway on February 17. The 40-foot wide paved Florida track allows for impressive three-cars-wide dashes to the finish.
Taylor and No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley co-driver, Max Angelelli, were invited to compete in the 2006 running of the 30th annual Crown Royal IROC Series because of their stellar performance as Driver Champions in the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series in the Daytona Prototype class. Additionally, the SunTrust team won the Grand-Am Team Championship as well.
"This is just a great experience for both of us," said Taylor, a native of South Africa. "It is such an honor that IROC would consider Max and me for their series, and it will be a pleasure to represent road racing."
Taylor and Angelelli will each drive two of the four races, which are being counted as a single entity in the standings and replicating the Grand American Road Racing format -- an IROC first. Taylor will drive the season-opener on the Daytona superspeedway and the IROC finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 24th. Max "The Ax" Angelelli will compete in Round 2 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7 and at the Daytona International Speedway road course on June 29.
This year's June 29 IROC race at Daytona International Speedway will be the first road race of the series to be held there since IROC's inaugural season in 1973-74, won by legendary driver Mark Donohue. Road courses have been absent from the IROC series since 1991, when NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace won the last road course event at Watkins Glen.
David Donohue, son of Mark Donohue, the first IROC Series champion in 1974, is serving as an IROC driving coach for Taylor, along with veteran Crown Royal IROC test drivers; Dave Marcis, Jim Sauter, Jay Sauter and Andy Hillenburg. Donohue and Taylor are competitors in the Rolex Series, but drive for different team and in different cars.
"Having David Donohue as a test driver with IROC this year is especially good for me, as we do know each other and both come from the Grand-Am Series. All of the test drivers and crew have been very helpful and very informative," added Taylor.J Car set-up, qualifying and pit stops are eliminated from the IROC race formula so to make conditions as equal as possible for the drivers of different racing disciplines. The overall points winner(s) will win $1 million, with a total purse of $1.9 million. In the case of Taylor and Angelelli, they will be considered one entity. Their combined points will be judged against the other individual drivers.
In addition to 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Champions Taylor and Angelelli, drivers for the 30th running of the Crown Royal IROC Series also include: Mark Martin, NASCAR Nextel Cup driver and 2005 Crown Royal IROC Champion; Tony Stewart, 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion; Martin Truex, Jr., 2005 NASCAR Busch Series Champion; Steve Kinser, 2005 World of Outlaws Series Champion; Ted Musgrave, 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion; Frank Kimmel, 2005 ARCA Re/Max Series Champion; Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series drivers; Sam Hornish and Scott Sharp, IRL IndyCar Series drivers and Max Papis from both open-wheel and road racing disciplines.
As Taylor got further along during practice week, he got a little taste of the difference in having other competitors on the circuit.
"By Friday of last week, I understood better what it will be like during the race after practicing with the NASCAR guys and Frank Kimmel," added Taylor, the 2005 and 1996 winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race. "They're certainly a little more aggressive, which is the nature of how they race. It was really good to have had this practice time. I was very comfortable running with them, the cars felt good and I just need to get as many laps in as possible before the race."
"I saw Ryan (Newman) coming up in my mirror and I've seen a lot of cars behind me during practices, but I've never seen one come up so close," said Taylor, who got his first experience bump drafting last Friday. "It felt as though he was pushing on my seat. It didn't disturb the car, it actually felt good and we were going in a straight line. The car felt a bit lose in Turn Two, but I don't know if he was actually touching me or was just very close. These are the kinds of things I want to learn more about before the race."
Successes Taylor and Angelelli experienced last season in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley Mk.XI, while competing in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, included five victories and ten podium finishes in fourteen races en route to both the Team and Drivers Championships. They also captured three poles, seven fastest laps and led the points championship the entire season. The SunTrust team completed every lap possible during the season, a total of 2,050 laps. Additionally, Angelelli recorded four podium finishes in five starts in the 2005 SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship, where he helped lift the Cadillac CTS-V race team to the Manufacturer's Championship in the GT class.
The Crown Royal IROC Series race from Daytona will be aired live on Speed Channel at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday, February 17th, with a repeat later that same night at 12:00 midnight .