TEAM NEWS: SunTrust Rolls a Not-So-Lucky 7 in Iowa

Photo by John Thawley Mid-Race Off-Course Excursion Costs SunTrust Team a Lap But It Battles Back for Seventh at Iowa Speedway 400K

An off-course excursion approaching the midpoint of Friday night's inaugural running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Iowa Speedway 400K cost co-drivers Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen a top finish. But the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley duo and their Wayne Taylor Racing teammates fought back to salvage a seventh-place finish that enabled Angelelli and the team to hold onto second place in the season-long driver and team championships.

After qualifying the SunTrust Pontiac third on tonight's starting grid just hours before race time during this one-day Rolex Series show on the brand new 1.3-mile, nine-turn road circuit that incorporates a majority of Iowa Speedway's 7/8-mile NASCAR tri-oval, Magnussen passed Memo Rojas of the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry for second place by the time they completed Turn 1 of the race. Magnussen then pursued the pole-winning No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stalling Racing entry driven by Jon Fogarty for the next 35 laps before momentary slipping past the No. 99 machine and into the lead.

That lead was short-lived, however, as the leaders pitted during the first caution of the race on Lap 39. The SunTrust team filled its fuel tank to capacity while the Gainsco team did a short-fill to regain the lead. Magnussen, who stayed in the SunTrust Racing machine, left the pits in second, then was passed on the Lap-45 restart by Scott Pruett, who replaced Rojas during the No. 01 team's Lap-39 stop.

Magnussen stayed in third behind the Nos. 99 and 01 cars until the caution flag flew again on Lap 84. Magnussen slid off-course at the Turn 4 infield portion of the circuit during the incident, and he took an entire lap to get back on track. He followed the leaders into the pits, and was replaced on the stop by Angelelli during the planned driver change. Angelelli got back on track immediately behind first-place Pruett and second-place Alex Gurney, who replaced Fogarty in the No. 99, but was a lap down in 12th place.

From there, Angelelli drove a strong and steady pace, staying right behind the front-runners, and moved up five places to finish seventh.

"I stalled the car trying to get back on, so basically, the in-lap was very long," said Magnussen. "I was up against the tire wall -- went straight off, through the grass. I don't know why I went off. I just locked up all four and had nowhere to go. Before the first caution, we were good. The car was strong. We got the lead. On the second run, I had a lot of laps where I couldn't get the balance in the car. I went until long into my second stint before I found the balance again. We were not as good as the leaders, but quite good. I'm really disappointed. It was a stupid mistake. For sure, a top-three was ours. Now, we have to settle for seventh. I feel sorry for the team."

The seventh-place finish, coupled with the victory tonight by Pruett and Rojas, dropped the SunTrust Pontiac 20 points behind the No. 01 in the team championship (272-252). The second-place SunTrust team is two points ahead of the No. 99, which entered the weekend having won the last three Rolex Series events and four on the year.

"We are human beings, so when you push hard, things can happen," said Angelelli, who stayed in second place in the driver championship with tonight's finish, now trailing Pruett by 15 points (272-257). "The championship is still there. We are going to try to make it up. I really don't know what else to say right now. This championship is such a tight fight, I don't remember ever having it like this in my entire career. It's unbelievable. Every weekend is so stressful. It's stressful, but we are having fun fighting the fight. There are still five races left in the championship. Anything can happen."

"We're very lucky to have held onto second place in the points," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "But we screwed up this weekend, and that's all there is to it. So we're looking forward to getting it back in Alabama."

The next stop on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series tour is next weekend's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Race day is Sunday (July 22) with live television coverage provided by SPEED-TV at 3 p.m. EDT.

« TEAM NEWS: Fogarty leads early, but mechanical issues keep Gurney out of fourth straight Victory Lane | Main | GRAND AM NEWS: Fogarty Lands Fourth Straight Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Pole Friday at Iowa »

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