Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli pulled a switch on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series field Saturday night and won the inaugural SFP Grand Prix at Kansas Speedway.
Taylor, in his first season driving in the Daytona Prototype class, usually qualifies and opens the race for the Wayne Taylor Racing team, and Angelelli, an 11-year veteran, brings it home.
But Saturday, they changed roles, and Taylor took the lead from Will Nonnamaker with 38 minutes remaining in the 2 hour, 45 minute race and held off five-time champion Scott Pruett’s BMW by 0.568 seconds in an entertaining race in front of an estimated 10,000 watching under the lights on the new 2.37-mile road course.
“We were both strong in all the races, and thought we’d give it a try,” said Taylor, 22. “We were further back in the points and weren’t focusing on the championship. It was more of a learning experience, trying to get me to finish races going into next year.
“And it turned out, we had a perfect race, and I was in the lead. Max (finished) two wins this season. It wasn’t like we switched because he wasn’t performing. It was just a switch looking to the future.”
Taylor and Angelelli’s third win of the season — and Angelelli’s 24th of his career — vaulted them into first place in the DP standings, two points ahead of Christian Fittipaldi, who drives with several teammates, and three points ahead of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty with two races to go.
Leh Keen and Alessandro Balzan, in a Ferrari, nosed out Patrick Lindsey/Patrick Long, in a Porsche, and won the Grand Touring class which ran simultaneously with the Daytona Prototypes. It was Keen’s 10th career win, Balzan’s first.
Meanwhile, John Edwards fell short in his bid to win two races Saturday. After Edwards kept hard-charging Matt Plumb off his rear bumper and won the Grand Sport class in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge road race in the afternoon, he and teammate Robin Liddell finished fourth in a Camaro in the nightcap’s Grand Touring class.
“Getting paid twice is nice,” said Edwards, who teamed with Matt Bell for the victory in the afternoon race, “but in reality, we’re all racers, and we want to race as much as we can.”
Last weekend, Edwards raced three times — twice Saturday and once Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., where the Grand-Am series ran simultaneously with its future partner, the American Le Mans Series.
“Three is a little too much on a weekend,” Edwards said. “But it was something I wanted to do once because the series were together.”
In Saturday’s first race, Bell had the car in second place at the time of a green-flag driver change an hour into the race. Edwards passed Jade Buford and held on to the lead for the final 90 minutes, beating Plumb’s Porsche to the finish by 0.425 seconds.
“The car was great,” Edwards said. “ I didn’t think this was going to be one of our tracks, but that didn’t stop us from really focusing on the setup and trying to make the car as good as we can make it. We probably weren’t as fast as (Plumb), but Matt was faster than Nick Longhi and did a good job to get by him. “
The victory was the second of the season for Stevenson Motorsports teammates Edwards and Bell, who moved to within 51 points of the GS defending champions and series leaders, Plumb and Longhi, with two events to go.
Plumb and Longhi could have clinched the series championship for Rum Bum Racing on Saturday, but they were content with maintaining a comfortable lead over their rivals.
“It would’ve been great, but honestly, in order to clinch it, Stevenson would’ve had to have some misfortune,” Plumb said, “and that’s not necessarily how we want to win this thing. Our job was to finish as high up as we possibly could, and it just so happened they finished one higher. But we’re psyched. We’re happy about it and we come away with a boatload of points. And we have a great shot of clinching it next time.”
Edwards had little time to celebrate. It was time to get ready to race again.
“Sometimes it can hinder you a little bit if you wear yourself out in (the first) race and there’s a short gap until the next one,” Edwards said. “But ultimately I know more about the track throughout the day, and I think it’s a big help. That’s part of the reason I start the other race, because that’s a shorter stint.”
Twenty-eight seconds after Edwards won the GS race, Taylor Hacquard, running second to Michael Valiante in the ST class, was declared the winner after Valiante was penalized for “manipulating the restart.”
It was the first time Hacquard, teaming with Derek Jones in a Mazda, ever finished second but won a race.
“I never had a race where I finished second either,” he said. “It’s been three full seasons in Grand-Am, and we’ve been so close so many times before. We’ve been within laps of winning a race but an inch of bad luck here and there blowing a tire, so it feels great to be in the top three across the finish line. It feels like a big accomplishment.”