TEAM EWS: Angelelli, Magnussen Take Second at Homestead, Third Consecutive Podium To Start the Rolex Series Season Puts SunTrust Team Just One Point Out of Championship Lead

Photo by John Thawley Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen pulled to within a single point of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series championship lead after recording their third consecutive podium finish in three 2007 races, bringing the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing home in second place at Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami on the Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway road circuit.

It was the eighth consecutive finish of fourth or better for the co-driving tandem of Angelelli and Magnussen, dating back to their victory together last May at Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, Calif. They started this season with third-place finishes at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and at Mexico City earlier this month. Today's runner-up finish to the No. 05 Team Sigalsport BMW of drivers Bill Auberlen and Matt Aldaheff put Angelelli and Magnussen just a point behind the No. 01 Telmex Lexus Riley team of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, which features drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. Pruett and Rojas finished third today after Pruett helped take the No. 01 to Victory Lane at Daytona, and he and Rojas co-drove to fourth at Mexico City.

Magnussen and the SunTrust Racing Pontiac started today's 91-lap event from the pole and rolled to a comfortable 10-second lead while the rest of the field engaged in heavy, side-by-side racing behind him during the opening fuel and tire run. The team brought Magnussen into the pits during a Lap 20 caution period, the second of the day, and promptly replaced him with Angelelli for the rest of the day. Angelelli rejoined the race in sixth place behind five cars that opted not to pit, led by the No. 39 Cheever Racing entry and driver Christian Fittipaldi.

Angelelli quickly picked up a spot on the Lap 26 restart, and was up to third when the third caution of the race came out on Lap 30. He passed another car on the ensuing restart, and stayed in second behind the No. 58 Brumos Porsche before pitting under caution for tires and fuel on Lap 50. On the Lap 56 restart, Angelelli, running in fourth, narrowly avoided an accident when the No. 91 Riley-Matthews car of driver Marc Goosens dove inside him at a left-hand infield corner but took out the No. 39 Cheever entry now being driven by Harrison Brix just ahead of him. Nine laps later, Angelelli began his march back to the front, first getting the No. 59 Red Bull Porsche for third place on Lap 65, then moving back into first place by getting both the No. 01 Ganassi car and the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing entry on Lap 66.

Angelelli stayed in the lead for the next 15 laps, holding off the No. 05 car of Auberlen through two restarts. But shortly after the second, on Lap 81, Auberlen made a stellar move inside Angelelli and took the lead for good with 10 laps remaining. Angelelli held off Pruett in the Ganassi car with ease to clinch SunTrust Racing's 24th podium finish in 41 Rolex Series starts dating back to the start of the 2004 season.

"Podium finishes are good," said team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove to the series championship with Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac in 2005. "I'm a little disappointed that we didn't win, and only because of the guys. These guys have sweated, they've worked so hard. We had a pole and we had a really good car. The guys deserved to win. But, they're professionals. We've tightened the gap in the championship. That's always important. In the end, that's a good day for us."

"I enjoyed the race," Angelelli said. "It's what Grand-Am racing is all about. You cannot rest for a second or you will get passed. Bill (Auberlen) really made a fantastic move. It really surprised me. When I saw him, I couldn't believe it. If I knew he was there, I would have closed the door for sure, as I did before. I knew he was really strong the first two laps after (restarts) and I really wasn't. He covered himself behind my car in the middle and I couldn't see him in my mirrors. So he did really well. The race was difficult for everybody. My car behind the other DP's was really difficult. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the whole race."

"Obviously, I'm very happy for the team," Magnussen said. "It looked for a while there like we were going to win this race, but Bill (Auberlen) was very strong at the end and got a run on Max after the (Lap 80) restart. From my point of view, I didn't do that many laps in this race. But I got away cleanly at the start and got a big gap. Everybody else was fighting behind me. I had a clean run. My car today was just great. Then I gave it over to Max and it was a really exciting race until the finish."

Next up for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors is the VIR 400 on April 29 at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.

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