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Grand Am DP - SunTrust P4 At The Glen

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Watkins Glen, Aug 12, 2012: The SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor nearly pulled off their second consecutive GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series podium finish but had to settle for a still-solid fourth-place result in Saturday night’s Continental Tire 200 two-hour sprint race on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn NASCAR short course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

Things looked incredibly promising at the start as the newly turned 23-year-old Taylor led the opening 22 laps quite comfortably from the pole position he earned for the second time this season and the 10th time in his career Friday afternoon in the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing.

But an aerodynamic adjustment during the night’s first pit stop under caution on lap 23 dropped him back to sixth, and he and Angelelli ended up playing catch-up for the rest of the race as a pair of Starworks Fords and the BMW Riley of two-time defending champions Scott Pruitt and Memo Rojas ultimately managed to stay out of reach.

“I asked for a wicker (bill) change on the first stop and that’s always a bit of a risky move,” said Taylor, who fought an oversteer condition during that opening run that affected his ability to satisfyingly negotiate the track’s high-speed esses through turns two, three, four and five. “We lost a little track position there and it’s really difficult to make up positions here on the short course with not a lot of heavy braking zones. Traffic is the only way to pass cars and we didn’t really get any breaks with the traffic. We were really trimmed out to try and keep pace with the Fords. At least we’re the fastest Corvette because that’s really all we can compare ourselves to. I guess we can come away happy with fourth place and move on to the next one.”

Taylor could get no higher than fifth before the yellow reappeared on lap 35, 46 minutes into the race. He was called into the pits once again after reporting the track had changed sufficiently enough that the team might consider reinserting the original wicker bill for less rear downforce. And so the team did, in addition to turning things over to the veteran Italian Angelelli in the cockpit for the closing stint.

Angelelli resumed in fifth, at one point dropped back to sixth when the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of David Donohue slipped past him, but gained the position back, and then gained another position when the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oz Negri encountered problems and was forced down pit lane late in the race.

Angelelli had one final shot at a podium finish on a restart with some four minutes remaining. He was side-by-side on the outside of Pruett through the high-speed, right-hand turn one, but he couldn’t find the grip or the horsepower to complete the move.

“I guess the big positive today is that we are first in class,” said Angelelli, who with Taylor swept last year’s two Rolex Series stops at Watkins Glen from the pole in resounding fashion. “The Fords beat us with their engines today and the Ganassi team beat us with their chassis today. That was the best we were going to get. On the last restart, what do I have to lose? You have to go for the podium. That was already a low-percentage possibility, and Pruett isn’t exactly a rookie, but I had to try. So I guess we’ll take our fourth place and go to Montreal.”

The No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley of Ryan Dalziel and new co-driver Lucas Luhr scored its first victory of the season and the team’s second in a row. Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow, who won the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weekends ago in the No. 2 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley, finished second tonight, just ahead of Pruett and Rojas.

With the fourth-place finish, the SunTrust team moved to within 10 points of the third-place No. 5 Action Express team in the Rolex Series standings with three races remaining. The SunTrust team remained eighth overall, 37 points behind the championship-leading No. 01 Ganassi team.

“It was obviously nice starting on the pole, we were fourth, and we were the top Corvette, which is very important,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “It was just a matter of horsepower and there’s just not much to say beyond that. Obviously, we’re a little bit disappointed. We had a really good car in practice. We had a perfect qualifying session. Even in night practice last night, we were looking good. Then, we come to the race and the Fords just drive away. Even the BMW of Pruett, he got by one of the Fords, but then they got to the straightaway and the Ford just drove right on by Pruett. Anyhow, the team, as usual, did a really good job. We are just a little disappointed after coming into the race on such a high, both Ricky and Max feeling we had a really good car. I guess fourth place was the best we could hope for, under the circumstances.”