Valiante and Angelelli dominate at Infineon
The 2.47-mile, 12-turn Infineon road course proved to be the perfect location for the SunTrust team’s first win of the season. Michael Valiante started the race from pole position, which he inherited late last night when the original pole sitter was sent to the back following the post qualifying technical inspection. Valiante led every lap of his stint and then turned the car over to Angelelli. He reassumed the lead on lap 45 with a competitive pass on the leader and was never headed since then. The team lead every lap of the 102 circuit event except 22.
The win was a special one as the team, owned by 2005 series champion Wayne Taylor, and has endured a difficult season. The team was returning from the race at Laguna Seca in May when their trailer caught fire in Texas and destroyed their first Dallara and all of their support equipment. The team was quick to rebuild and showed the tenacity today to win their first race of the season.
“I am very happy, there couldn’t have been a better place for our first win,” Angelelli said. “We had a lot of our sponsors here today and all of the Dallara guys were here from Italy to watch the car run for the first time. It was great to get the win, set fast lap of the race and the pole position, the car was very fast all weekend.”
The GAINSCO team was a consistent front runner all day, but with only one caution period in the two-hour-and-forty-five-minute race they could never get close to challenge the 10 team. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney still have a glimmer of hope in defending their 2007 championship with two races remaining.
“It was different from last year, we weren’t the fastest,” Gurney said. “The SunTrust guys set the pace pretty much all weekend. We made big changes for the race and we went faster. It was tough to keep that pace all race. I got a good jump on the restart after the caution and was able to get a gap to the 61 car. I miss all the winning from last year.”
Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta finished the day in fifth at the wheel of the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. The team was sent to the back of the grid after their original fourth place qualifying time was negated due to the car being too low in post session scrutineering.
“We had an unlucky qualifying penalty and had to start from last place,” Zonta said. “All the strategy was to try to get back on position. It’s hard to overtake here at the Sonoma track because there are no straights. We had some problems with the rear tires also for a few laps and the car was very undriveable, but then the grip came back. It was difficult to overtake the other cars. The lap times we very close. I think fifth position was good for the championship. I had some fun trying to overtake the 59 car, but he was quite quick on the fast corners and it was difficult to try to pass him under braking.”
Jim Matthews started the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac Riley and ran consistent laps before turning it over to teammate Marc Goossens. Goossens was making up time until a noise came from the drivetrain. He pitted on lap 48 and the team took the Pontiac Riley back to the paddock for repairs. Jim Matthews returned to the action several laps latter to take the checker flag.
“I was exiting turn seven and shifted to third gear and then I lost power,” Goossens said. “I pitted and the team decided to take the car back to the paddock as they could not repair it in pit lane. It is too bad because we were very fast today in the warm-up and I think we had a car that could have challenged for at least a podium position today.
Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele had a good day finishing 11th in their No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. Van de Poele was trying to break into the top 10 when he was hit by a car attempting pass and he spun as a result. The duo was able to improve significantly over their 16th place qualifying effort.
“The car was pretty good and had a very good setup, so thanks to the crew for that,” van de Poele said. “It’s always very important. Right at the beginning of my stint we decided to start with scrubbed tires, which was a good choice. Afterwards though the car was oversteering, but I could manage the car consistently, but it got worse and worse. I just kept my position and tried to pass a few cars under braking, which was quite good. Unfortunately during my fight to get tenth position, a car pushed me off and I spun, so I lost a few seconds and I couldn’t come back from it before the end of the race for tenth position.”
Cheever Racing’s woes continued in the race. The team did not take part in qualifying and retired their No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote on lap 80 of the 102 lap race due to an electrical problem. Antonio Garcia and Christian Fittipaldi had been struggling with the handling of the black and gold car all weekend.
“We had a difficult time with the handling in practice,” Garcia said. “I was in the race and had the car go dark a couple of times on me. I pitted the car and the guys thought they had fixed it and I returned to the race and it shut down again. It just was not safe to continue.”
Today’s Armed Forces 250 from Infineon will be televised, tape delayed, tomorrow, Sunday, August 24 on the SPEED Channel at 12:00 p.m. ET.
The penultimate round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be run at New Jersey Motorsport Park on August 31.
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."
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