DC's Sunday morning at VIR: A door opens
A DOOR OPENS Guy Cosmo's been hanging around Rolex Series Races so much for the last couple of years making himself far more available for Daytona Prototype rides than the number that came his way that you'd think he would've long ago given up.
A DOOR OPENS
Guy Cosmo's been hanging around Rolex Series Races so much for the last couple of years making himself far more available for Daytona Prototype rides than the number that came his way that you'd think he would've long ago given up. But, as though duty-bound, Cosmo kept showing up trackside.
To look at the slim, taller-than-your-average driver with his glasses and quiet demeanor, it's easy to think of Cosmo as being scholarly and having a profession - law, accounting, even teaching - doing anything but a race car driver.
Looks unimportant at the racetrack other than at a sponsor's gathering, the obligatory pre-race autograph session or the "race queen" kissing drivers on the podium, the most important thing in racing is being fast and bringing a car home in one piece. Over the years, Cosmo has done does both well.
Born in Long Island, N.Y., Cosmo's been a confirmed south-Floridian for years, probably as much to do with being able to practice his trade year-round than anything else considering that ice racing is more often linked with northern Minnesota and Canada than on New York's Big Island (which, if by itself politically, would rank among the world's top 100 most populated countries).
Bringing the U.S. F2000 American Continental and North American Star Mazda series championships to the table, Cosmo started five Rolex Series Daytona Prototype-class races in 2003, teaming at the DP's inaugural Rolex 24 At Daytona appearance with car-owner Darius Grala, Oswaldo Negri and the late Josh Rehm in a (then) Toyota-powered FABCAR FDSC/03, where Cosmo and team would finish the race 25th overall and 4th in class.
But since that season, there hasn't exactly been a plethora of opportunities for Cosmo - at least in the top-dog DP class for someone possessing far more talent than money. Yet, he wasn't dissuaded.
"I know the opportunity will come someday," he said many, many races ago. "How can I be in the right place at the right time if I'm not there?"
With Finlay Motorsports regular Memo Gidley on the outs with a spinal injury suffered at the DP's last appearance during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend, regular No. 19 Playboy/Uniden driver Michael McDowell was in need of someone to share driving duties for about the next three months and Cosmo was selected over other prominent and presently free-lancing candidates like Max Papis.
Now, it's Cosmo's chance to shine - especially today.
"I know the opportunity I've got here," the 29-year-old driver said at the end of Friday's two practice sessions. I hope to make the best of it."
"No driver likes that a seat comes open at someone else's expense, but the show goes on. Someone has to do it and I'm grateful that I got the chance here in the Playboy Uniden car."
Having a broad base of experience garnished primarily in the world of open wheel single-seaters and open-cockpit sportscars, Cosmo had earlier wondered what the transition might be like.
"It was much easier than I had thought," he said. "I thought that there might be some visibility issues to the rear but that proved unfounded."
In Saturday's first-ever DP qualifying race for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, Cosmo's new teammate - but a Finlay Motorsports old hand - Michael McDowell made a veritable last-minute pass for the lead and scored the pole for today's VIR 400, from which Cosmo will take the race's opening green flag at 1 p.m. (live coverage on SPEED).
"This was the easiest race I've ever won," Cosmo said. "Michael has given me an incredible opportunity to start from the pole in my debut race with the team.
"There were a lot of firsts for the team today," McDowell said. "This was the first win for the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms car and the first win of the season for Ford."
And, not the least of which was a well-deserved "first" for Cosmo in a top-shelf DP team.
Racing's a dynamic, ever-changing business, having changes caused by unanticipated accidents and, with far greater certainty, the passing hands of time.
It wasn't really too very long after Wayne Taylor got his SunTrust team rolling in 2004 that the handwriting started appearing on the wall - or perhaps reflected in his bathroom mirror.
Scheduled to hit the personal half-century mark mid-July, Taylor really doesn't look it. Save for his wisdom on the course, he really doesn't drive like it, either. Yet, for the last couple of seasons Taylor has wondered time and again, "Am I losing my edge?"
"In motorsports, the difference between a win and second place is sometimes measured in thousandths of a second. My job, first and foremost, is to see the SunTrust car make its way to Victory Lane. And if I impede that process, then it's necessary for me to step out of the car," Taylor said just before the mid-year 2005 Brumos Porsche 250 race at Daytona International Speedway where he as the driver won his sole pole of the season.
"Boy, that was a big boost; it sure helps emotionally," the surprised South African native - now proud to be American - said whilst huddled in the SunTrust's pit-box trappings on pit road, dodging a hard rain and lightning bolts that soon followed the end of the qualifying session.
On top of owning and driving, Taylor also is a very popular and much sought-after participant in his sponsorship community.
Then there's his two sons, Ricky, 16, and Jordan, nearing 15, who have enthusiastically embraced motorsports.
"Just a few years ago they didn't even care to come to a racetrack. Now they're not only getting in race cars, but winning as well," Taylor said.
Ricky has already claimed victories in Skip Barber Racing Series action after leaving Karting, where Jordan continues to competes and wins.
Enjoying a tight relationship with his offspring, Taylor understandably enjoys spending time with them, particularly now that there's race talk to be shared at the dinner table and Taylor wants to make the most of it.
Regular co-driver (and close friend) Max Angelelli, along with occasional co-drivers Emanuel Collard and Ryan Briscoe - who share driving duties in endurance events - have joined Taylor to score eight Daytona Prototype victories since fielding the SunTrust car at the beginning of the 2004 season. Angelelli, Collard and Taylor would score a 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona victory - Taylor's second - for the start of a season at the end of which he and his SunTrust teammates scored three more wins and capped the season by celebrating the Rolex Series DP driving championship with Angelelli.
"I enjoy racing: the relationships, competition and the camaraderie," Taylor said. "When SunTrust and I came into the Rolex Series I felt like this would be a good way to be a part of racing again (after hanging his helmet up in 2002)."
"But things have changed; perhaps far more and faster than any of us expected. Today, in order to be competitive - have a chance to win - you've got to have two very fast drivers in the seat.
"Max is incredibly fast. When he gets into the car, he becomes one with it. I'm afraid I don't anymore because I'm also sometimes thinking about this or that about the team when I'm in the car. It's really tough to separate the two when they're both essentially the same thing at the same time."
"Also, the nature of the DP class itself has changed so rapidly - one where a 'gentleman' driver and a driver like Max could get in the car and compete against a similar team in another car - is already largely a thing of the past if you expect to win a race.
"I'm certain no one anticipated so rapid a change so soon but the fact is in order to be competitive in Daytona Prototype - to win races and championships - it'll take two very fast drivers."
"I want to make it clear that I'll be driving at least three more races this year: VIR and the two Watkins Glen races. I'll not miss those," Taylor said, coming up well short of using the "R" word (retire) in any shape or fashion.
In the meantime, the team already is looking at a number of drivers for Taylor's seat, maybe even one will join the team at some point this season.
But, to be clear, there is no announced timetable for a change, it's just that one knows that change is coming - much like the hands of time.
-Exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams