Grand-Am Rolex Series Victory of 2008 Season Saturday at Infineon Raceway
SunTrust Racing team picks up first victory since August 2007 at Montreal, and makes Dallara a first-time winner in Daytona Prototypes
In a season where just about everything has gone wrong for the SunTrust Racing team in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, everything went right for Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli Saturday at Infineon Raceway.
Valiante led the opening 24 laps on the 2.47-mile, 12-turn track before handing over the No. 10 Pontiac Dallara to Angelelli, who led the final 58 laps to win the Armed Forces 250. It was the first victory of the season and 12th career for Angelelli - the 2005 Daytona Prototype champion - and the first career triumph for Valiante, who joined the Wayne Taylor-owned team this season. The Daytona Prototype race will be televised at noon ET Sunday.
The team's previous best finish this season was third in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June, only two weeks after the team's transporter and primary car were destroyed in a highway fire. It was the first victory for the Dallara chassis, and first triumph for a non-Riley constructor since May 2007 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Alex Gurney finished second in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley started by Jon Fogarty, 3.646 seconds behind at the finish. The defending series champions cut the lead of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to 42 points (364-322) with two races remaining in the 2008 campaign.
Pruett and Rojas finished sixth in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. Pruett had been running fourth on Lap 65 when he was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for contact with Darren Law on the race's only restart. That dropped the 2008 point co-leaders - winners of six Daytona Prototype races this season - to 10th, but Pruett was able to pass four cars before the finish.
Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle finished third in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley, giving the team its third consecutive podium finish. Frisselle started 16th after his apparent pole-winning qualifying run was nullified due to a technical infraction. He was able to lead 17 laps before pitting, with Wilkins running third throughout most of his run. Joao Barbosa and JC France finished fourth in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, followed by Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
The lone caution period came on Lap 59, when Shane Lewis came to a stop due to a broken axle on the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley. Moments before the full-course caution waved, Angelelli pitted, assuring him track position when the full-course caution waved.
Angelelli pulled away on the restart and led the rest of the race, although Gurney was able to shave more than eight seconds off the lead in the waning laps of the event.
The Grand-Am Rolex Series crosses the country to race at New Jersey Motorsports Park next Sunday in the Supercar Life 250, featuring the Daytona Prototype and GT classes.
NEWS & NOTES
- The victory is the first-ever Daytona Prototype victory for Michael Valiante and the 12th ever for Max Angelelli.
- This is the first victory of the season for the No. 10 SunTrust Racing team, and the first since August 2007 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
- This is the first ever Daytona Prototype victory for the Dallara chassis and the first victory for a chassis other than Riley since winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May 2007. Rileys, however, finished second, third and fourth in the Armed Forces 250.
- The victory was the third for a Pontiac engine in Daytona Prototypes this season.
- Saturday's race marks the second time this season and second straight an event has been won from the pole position.
- Angelelli ran the race's fastest lap (1:27.051) on Lap 68 of 102.
- This is the fourth runner-up finish of the season for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, the 2007 Infineon race winners. The duo closed the gap to 42 points behind point co-leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
- This is the third straight podium finish for No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley drivers Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle, who came into the event riding a two-race winning streak. This is the team's eighth top-10 finish this season, as the team improved a race-high 13 positions.
- Joao Barbosa and JC France garnered their third fourth-place finish of the season aboard the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. Barbosa ran the car's fastest lap (1:27.672) on Lap 101 of 102.
- The fifth-place finish by the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola and drivers Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta was the second straight such result after the group finished fifth at Watkins Glen International earlier this month. The team now has fifth top-five finishes this season.
- The sixth-place finish by the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley drivers and point co-leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas was the car's and drivers' 11th top-10 finish in 12 starts this season. Though he led laps in each of the first 10 races this season, Pruett - who has led a season-high 280 laps - has not led in the last three events.
- Northern California drivers Memo Gidley (Novato) and Joey Hand (Sacramento) finished seventh and eighth.
- David Donohue and Darren Law finished ninth in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley after running the top five much of the day. Law spun while trying to hold a position late in the race and was unable to get the car started right away, dropping the team down one lap.
- Eight of the 17 Daytona Prototypes finished all 102 laps of the race.
- Five drivers in four Daytona Prototypes led laps in the race: Max Angelelli (58), Michael Valiante (22), Brian Frisselle (17), Jon Fogarty (4), Bill Auberlen (1). Three engine manufacturers led the race.
POST-RACE QUOTES - PODIUM FINISHERS
Max Angelelli (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara): "We're definitely very happy. It couldn't have come at a better place. We've had everybody from our team members - SunTrust, Toshiba, Miracle Sealants, and of course, (owner/founder) Gianpaolo Dallara, who came from Italy the very first time - to watch our race. We won the pole position, won the race; it couldn't have been better. It was very fast."
Michael Valiante (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara): "It was just unfortunate what happened with the (No.) 61; it was unfortunate for them because we wanted to race them. It was good in the race to actually come through together and battle with them and show that we had the speed we did this weekend even though they had to start from the back. In the race I thought we'd be challenged a lot more than we were. From all the problems we had all year long, it was a textbook race. It couldn't have gone any better. We kept saying our time's coming. The clock was ticking. So it was nice for it to finally come before the end of the year."
Alex Gurney (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "It was definitely a little bit different than last year. I think we were the fastest car last year and this year the SunTrust guys set the pace most of the weekend and definitely in the race. They had us scratching our heads and definitely a little worried early in the weekend. We worked on the car and made some pretty big changes throughout the weekend and it was the best it was in the race. SunTrust's pace was just a little bit too much, but I was happy we were able to pull away from the No. 61 car. It was a good finish but I miss the wins for sure. I don't like finishing second."
Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley): "I had a pretty good start. I was right up there behind Michael Valiante and was able to stay on his bumper and that allowed me to get alongside the No. 58 and make a move and come out of there in P2. We pushed really hard but the No. 10 SunTrust car was really quick today and hats off to them. It was pretty difficult for me as we started on the set of tires that we qualified on and I kind of abused them a little bit in qualifying. But I was able to maintain my position and hand the car over in good shape."
Mark Wilkins (No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley): "Yellows would have certainly helped us a little bit. Brian (Frisselle) drove a fantastic stint, getting the car from near the back to the front. It's a tough track, and the AIM guys gave us a fantastic car. We're thrilled to be back on the podium again.
"New Jersey (next week) is a track we're definitely looking forward to because it's a level playing field for everybody. No one knows what to expect. I think the talented group that we have will get up to speed very quickly. Brian will be finishing that race, as we're switching it up a little bit, but I'm very, very confident that we'll have a great car there and we'll be able to get another great result."
Brian Frisselle (No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley): "It was good. I knew it was going to be tough, because this place is a tough place to pass. I knew you really had to work the race track to get through traffic. I just had to put my head down, and the team called a great strategy, having us pit on Lap 1, and then running me long. It was hard there at the end, not only with Max (Angelelli), but because my tires had about double the laps that he had on them. So it was hard to keep him behind me. But the team just did a great job calling the strategies and getting track positions. I tried to pass as many cars as I could, and (Mark Wilkins) kept it near the front for his entire stint."