Despite only qualifying a disappointing sixth on the grid, the #10 SunTrust Racing pairing of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor took another giant step towards the 2005 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series title by recording a series-leading fifth victory of the season in the Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen.
Angelelli took advantage of great pit work from his crew to take the lead with 27 laps remaining, and held off several late challenges from main title rival Scott Pruett and the #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing team to win by 0.473secs.
Angelelli had his hands full throughout the race's final laps, however, and was unable to see Pruett behind him because he had lost both of his mirrors early in the race.
The Italian also managed to keep the lead despite the fact that a woodchuck ran directly into the path of the #10 Riley-Pontiac with three laps remaining. The resulting contact destroyed the car's right headlight and also did minor damage to the bodywork on the right front of the car, but Pruett was equally affected as the 'debris' from the collision also struck the #01 car.
Angelelli later explained that he had lost the 1996 Macau F3 Grand Prix after he struck an animal on course, and was afraid that the same thing would happen in the Crown Royal 250.
“All I saw was this black thing, and I couldn't understand what it was,” the Italian said, “When I hit it, I thought it should have been bigger because it was a big hit. It moved the car, and the steering wheel. I had nothing at the end, and I'm sure Scott pushed it just as hard as me. This race was really tough, but it was for the championship and this was a win we really, really wanted.”
The victory enabled Angelelli and Taylor to extend their lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings to 39 points over Pruett and co-driver Luis Diaz. If the SunTrust team-mates further extend or maintain their lead following the VIR 400 in two weeks' time, they will share a first DP title.
It was the team's second-straight victory at Watkins Glen International, but their first win since a triumph in the CompUSA 200 at The Glen last month. With a total of eight victories, Angelelli and Taylor also moved atop the all-time Daytona Prototype win list, ahead of 2003 champion Terry Borcheller, whose regular ride was withdrawn from the race earlier in the week.
“Watkins Glen is always a favourite because there are true road race fans out here,” Taylor said, “We did plan to follow the #01, but we really thought Scott was going to get in the car. Then it turned out that it was the best decision that we made. For [Riley Technologies owner] Bill Riley and the guys, that pit-stop when Scott changed with Luis, and Max came in for fuel and tyres, played a big role in the outcome of the race. A lot of credit needs to go to those guys.”