Taylor edged out a hard-charging Scott Pruett for the win in GRAND-AM’s first visit to the 2.37-mile roval, in what turned out to be a thrilling duel between the two powerhouse Daytona Prototype squads.
The 22-year-old took over the lead just past the halfway mark, which saw the second-generation driver charged with taking the No. 10 Corvette DP to the finish, a task generally handled by co-driver Angelelli.
However, the role reversal was perfectly executed, with Taylor performing brilliantly under pressure late in the two-hour and 45-minute race, holding off the five-time and defending Daytona Prototype champion by 0.568 seconds at the line.
“I was nervous for about an hour and a half,” Taylor admitted. “I think the biggest time was when we got through traffic and [Scott Pruett] picked up almost a second on us. But I knew we were quick in places we needed to be quick and we could defend into Turn 1, which was the only proper passing place.
“He was definitely strong in certain areas but I think we were strong in the areas we needed to defend.”
The win for Taylor and Angelelli, their third of the season, was enough for the WTR duo to retake the DP championship lead, in a night that didn’t go in favor of title challengers Starworks Motorsport and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing.
Alex Popow, who along with Ryan Dalziel entered as championship leaders, finished 21 laps behind after the Venezuelan made contact with the wall early.
The “Red Dragon” of Alex Gurney, meanwhile, was collected in a second hour accident with a 8Star Corvette DP, relegating Alex Gurney and Fogarty to an 8th place finish.
As a result, the title race has tightened up even more, with the top-five now separated by just four points heading into next month’s penultimate round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford, which suffered a heavy practice crash, rebounded to finish third Saturday in the hands of Ozz Negri and John Pew. The pair of Action Express Racing Corvettes completed the top-five overall and in the DP class.
In GT, Scuderia Corsa broke through to claim its maiden class victory, with Alessandro Balzan and Leh Keen taking their Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am to a one-lap victory over the Park Place Racing Porsche of Patrick Long and Patrick Lindsey in second.
The result was also good enough for the Italian driver and the California-based squad to take over the lead in the GT title race.
“There’s no better point to win a race like that,” Balzan said. “For me and the team we’re really happy and are proud of what we’re doing… I think we are in the best way to finish the championship.”
Balzan, who earned his first career Rolex Series victory, benefitted from a pit lane miscue for the pole-sitting AIM Motorport Ferrari of Jeff Segal on his final stop with 40 minutes to go, when Segal left with the fuel nozzle still engaged in the car.
The costly incident relegated Segal and super sub Alex Tagliani to a sixth place finish, behind the No. 69 AIM Autosport Ferrari of Emil Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro, who finished third in class.
Stevenson’s John Edwards and Robin Liddell came home fourth, while the Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 GRAND-AM of Mark Boden and Bryan Sellers completed the top-five after leading late in the running.
GX class honors went to the No. 00 Visit Florida Racing Mazda6 of Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez, who took a six-lap victory over the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman.
The pole-sitting No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda dropped out early with axle failure.