MONTEREY, CA (May 20, 2007) - The good news after today’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series U.S. Sports Car Invitational is the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team of Wayne Taylor Racing has nine more races this season to overcome a five-point deficit in the championship standings. The not-so-good news is the team watched its 11-point lead in the standings evaporate despite starting on the front row for today’s 91-lap excursion around scenic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., the very track where Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen co-drove the SunTrust Racing machine to victory a year ago this weekend.
After Sunday’s 15th-place finish, which dropped the SunTrust team back into second place in the championship, five points behind today’s runner-up finishing No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry of co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, it was a deeply disappointed Angelelli who laid the blame for today’s occurrences squarely on his own shoulders. Angelelli’s off-course excursion coming out of Turn 9 on Lap 32 of today’s 91-lap event left the No. 10 SunTrust car with significant damage to the right-front, which required two laps in the pits under caution to repair. Even though the SunTrust crew made relative quick work of a not-so-small job — replacing the entire front splitter and nose piece — Angelelli resumed the race in 17th place, two laps down to the leaders. On this day, however, it was a deficit that was not to be overcome, despite the fact Angelelli was running some of the fastest laps of the race when it went back to green.
"I don’t understand it, but I feel miserable — I messed it up, it’s as simple as that," said Angelelli, who just three weeks ago today at Virginia International Raceway was celebrating the SunTrust team’s first victory of the season and fourth consecutive podium finish. "I was pushing like everybody else. I was just coming out of the corner, I lost it and I went off. On a positive note, if that’s possible on a day like today, the crew is absolutely great. They were fast in changing everything. They did a good job. They gave me a super-fast car again. So the good thing is I know I have the best team. When you have the best team, you need to win the championship. There are no excuses. The driver made a mistake today. We will go on to the next race and I will try not to do it again."
Angelelli’s co-driver Magnussen was prepared for a strong final sprint to the finish, having shown up at Laguna Seca for the first time only this morning after scoring a second-place American Le Mans Series finish in a factory Corvette at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on Saturday night. Magnussen had a stout final practice this morning in the SunTrust car, clocking the second-fastest lap of the session in preparation for his driving stint today. But, running on his own lap, still two down to the leaders when he took over for Angelelli with 31 laps remaining, all Magnussen was able to fight for was a top-15 finish.
"It was a tough weekend for the team," Magnussen said. "We came in with the points lead and great expectations. I think it’s tough, but it happens in racing. Now is the time for the whole team to show how strong they are when we come back for the next one."
Wayne Taylor, just five races into his run as owner of the team that bears his name, also did his best to remain philosophical despite its first tough day at the office all season.
"It’s obviously very disappointing," Taylor said. "We had a fast car and fast team, as usual. But these things happen in racing. We are a good group. This is a good team. We just need to focus and get back, to try and get the (championship) lead back. I see no reason why we can’t just regroup and go to the next race and get back into the lead. We’ve got good guys here. It’s a good team. We just had a little bit of a bad day. It looks like it’s down to us and Ganassi again, so it’s all about points, now."
The No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche of co-drivers Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long became the fifth different winner in as many races this season, beating the runner-up Ganassi car and the third-place-finishing Michael Shank Racing team of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson at the finish under caution.
Next stop for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is the annual Sahlen’s Six Hours at The Glen on June 9 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Raceway.
SunTrust Banks, Inc., with total assets of $182.2 billion on December 31, 2006, is one of the nation's largest and strongest financial holding companies. Through its banking subsidiaries, the company provides deposit, credit, trust, and investment services to a broad range of retail, business, and institutional clients. Other subsidiaries provide credit cards, mortgage banking, credit-related insurance, brokerage, equipment leasing and capital markets services. Atlanta-based SunTrust enjoys leading market positions in some of the highest growth markets in the United States and also serves clients in selected markets nationally. The company operates 1,701 retail branches and 2,569 ATMs in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In addition, SunTrust provides customers with a full range of technology-based banking channels, including Internet, PC, and Automated Telephone Banking.