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Sun Trust And The Axe Win In Daytona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 4 2009
Max Angelelli was at the wheel when his Sun Trust team won the Brumos Porsche 250 on Saturday. (Grand-Am Series Photo)

Max Angelelli was at the wheel when his Sun Trust team won the Brumos Porsche 250 on Saturday. (Grand-Am Series Photo)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Correspondent


Daytona Beach, Fla. – Max Angelelli closed the door on a late-race charge by Alex Gurney to win the Grand-Am Rolex Series race at Daytona for the Sun Trust Racing team by 0.270 seconds.

Known as “Max the Axe,” the Italian driver held his advantage in the infield by shutting down Gurney in the corners, then used the superior power on the banking of his Ford-powered Riley chassis to beat the Pontiac-powered driver, also in a Riley chassis.

“I tried to pick the places where I could close the door and I did,” said Angelelli, who gained the lead after stepping in for co-driver Brian Frisselle shortly before the race’s second caution. When Gurney relieved co-driver Jon Fogarty during that caution, he returned to the track fourth in line behind Angelelli for the re-start.

Setting the race’s fastest lap, Gurney pulled to the rear bumper of the leader with 10 laps to go.

“It was tough,” said Gurney, who twice pulled alongside only to fall behind again under braking at the bus stop chicane on the back straight, including the final lap. “I was thinking championship. I didn’t want to do anything stupid. But at that point, I was trying to win the race.”

“The way we had the car set-up I was better on the straights,” said Angelelli, ” and I used that advantage. They had an advantage on the infield.”

The bus stop chicane was the downfall of NASCAR’s Kyle Busch, who qualified 11th in a Chip Ganassi Racing entry. Busch ran through the chicane on the first lap, forcing an unscheduled pit stop for tires. He overshot the chicane at the end of his stint again. When co-driver Scott Speed got on board with a little more than an hour remaining, the Riley-Lexus trailed in 12th place among the Daytona Prototypes. The car finished 10th as Busch quickly retreated to private quarters prior to the 400-mile Sprint Cup race.

The presence of the NASCAR duo did little to motivate fans to arrive early for Saturday night’s 400-mile race on a sweltering day that brought some complaints from drivers. But the slam-bang sports car race full of spins and near misses provided plenty of diversion from the heat for the fans already installed in their campers and parking spaces in the infield.

In a tough day for the Ganassi team, points leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas started on the pole but suffered a blown right front tire after leading 18 laps. That dropped them a lap behind before recovering to finish seventh. Their lead is down to one point over Sun Trust’s Angelelli and Frisselle and three points over the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing duo of Gurney and Fogarty.

Ryan Dalziel and co-driver Bill Lester were 5.5 seconds behind the leaders in third place. Former NASCAR driver Lester attributed his first podium in the Grand-Am to the arrival of young road race veteran Dalziel, making his first start for Orbit Racing. “You haven’t seen us up here (on the podum),” said Lester. “Now we’re here. It’s no fluke.”

Brumos Porsche’s Darren Law and David Donohue, winners of the Daytona 24-hour in February, barely made it five laps before an electrical fire in the cockpit erupted. The Riley-Porsche eventually completed 41 laps. 

In the GT category, Dirk Werner outlasted a late-braking effort by Nick Ham at the bus stop with five laps to go to bring Farnbacher Loles Racing and co-driver Leh Keen the victory. Ham, who spun through the grass in his Mazda RX-8 after getting sideways, recovered to finish second with co-driver Sylvain Tremblay.

“I blocked him when he tried to go low,” said Werner. “Then he came alongside on the outside. When I let off the brake a little bit, he kept going.” 

Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jonathan@jingrambooks.com.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 4 2009
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