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Grand Am Prototypes - Rough Stretch Continues For SunTrust

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Mid-Ohio, Jun. 10,, 2012: After back-to-back wins in April and May for Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing, the month of June has been ridiculously cruel to the SunTrust Racing team.

Late-race contact while trying to hold onto a second-place finish in Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington led to a cut tire, a spin, and front-end damage that resulted in the team’s second DNF (did not finish) in as many weekends. Last Saturday, a pit road mishap while leading sent the SunTrust team to the sidelines midway through the inaugural Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 at Detroit’s Belle Isle street circuit.

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This time, it was the veteran Angelelli behind the wheel of the SunTrust Racing machine. He did a magnificent job Saturday of protecting his second-place position from the moment he took over for co-driver Taylor an hour into the two-hour, 45-minute race until roughly 20 minutes remained.

While the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook maintained a comfortable lead some 10 seconds ahead, Angelelli led a four-car, nose-to-tail battle of cars running second through fifth for most of the final fuel-and-tire run that began with less than an hour to go.

With some 20 minutes remaining, Angelelli encountered a slower GT-class competitor and lost momentum just enough to give defending series champion Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley to slip past in to second. Angelelli tried but could not regain the position from Pruett, and that allowed Joao Barbosa in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to dart alongside Angelelli heading from the right-hand turn four to the sweeping left-hand turn five.

Barbosa’s left-front contact Angelelli in the right rear and flatted his tire, sending Angelelli into spin in front of Barbosa, who then slide into Angelelli’s left-front and caused significant damage. And that was it.

“That was really disappointing,” Angelelli said. “I came up on a really slow Mazda that didn’t let me go, so I lost a lot of time there. The 01 (Pruett) had a good run and overtook me. It was a clean overtake, no problem. Then the 9 (Barbosa) hit me in the right rear and cut my tire. He hit me with his left front. I really don’t understand why he was there, why that happened. We were on our way to getting second-place points. Instead, we finish in the back. That is just devastating, once again. We will have to come back strong from these last two weeks.”

With Taylor having qualified the SunTrust car third behind the polesitting Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP and Westbrook’s co-driver Michael Valiante in the No. 90 Corvette DP, it appeared the SunTrust car had a lock on a second-place finish after Fogarty was sent to the pits with electrical problems and a loss of power steering just 30 minutes into the race.

Taylor actually took second place from Valiante with a smooth move behind Fogarty at the start. But he struggled a bit to get the SunTrust car to handle just right and lost second place back to Valiante seven laps into the race.

“I was a bit disappointed I let Valiante go,” Taylor said. “I was being a bit conservative, I think. I didn’t want to make a mistake two weeks in a row. But I felt like we had a good car today. In clean air, we were one of the fastest cars, which is very good because we didn’t expect our car to suit this track very well. Considering that, it was a good run. Looking forward, it’s going to be hard to make up these points. At least we know we have the speed. It would have been nice to get the points we should have at these tracks where we have been strong because the next several races will be good for the Fords, I think. But we’ll just have to keep on doing what we’re doing and hopefully the bad luck is behind us.”

Just seven green-flag laps remained after cleanup of the Angelelli-Barbosa incident, and Westbrook in the No. 90 Corvette drove stoically to hold off the challenge of Pruett in the No. 01 BMW. Westbrook crossed the finish line 0.236 of a second ahead of the runner-up Pruett to score the Spirit of Daytona team’s second victory of the year. The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Terry Borcheller and David Donohue finished third while Barbosa crossed the finish line in sixth after pitting to replace a flat tire of his own that occurred during the contact with Angelelli.

The SunTrust team’s ninth-place result dropped it one spot to sixth in the Rolex Series championship, 14 points behind the front-running Ganassi Racing duo of Pruett and Memo Rojas with seven races remaining.

“I just feel really bad for the team because the pit stops have been flawless, the preparation has been perfect,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “We didn’t have a winning car today. We had a second-place car, which both Max and Ricky proved. I don’t know what happened in the incident. It’s competitive racing, but we came out on the short end of it. It’s not been a good year as far as those things go, but we’ll figure out how to turn it around. It’s never over until it’s over. I’m just disappointed that we ended up in another situation like this.”