Michael Shank Racing and Fresh From Florida rally to top ten finish in Rolex 24 At Daytona
(Daytona Beach, FL) 29 January 07-- Despite a horsepower-sapping broken rear exhaust and no engine cover, Mark Patterson moved the Fresh From Florida Lexus-Riley up to ninth place on the very last lap of the Rolex 24 At Daytona to cap off a tremendous comeback for Michael Shank Racing.
The broken exhaust and lack of engine cover were a result of hard contact from behind during the long Daytona night, and was just one of the obstacles the No. 60 car of Patterson, Oswaldo Negri, Sam Hornish Jr., and Helio Castroneves had to overcome as the team rallied from 40th overall to move back up into the top ten at the finish with the Fresh From Florida machine.
The sister Michael Shank Racing Lexus/Riley of Henri Zogaib, Ian James, AJ Allmendinger, and Paul Tracy also staged an impressive comeback, finishing the race 16th in the Daytona Prototype class after falling as low as 56th position ten hours into the race after going behind the wall twice to correct a pair of mechanical set-backs.
The Rolex race boasted strong teams, superstar drivers, and a full field of competitive entries.
Allmendinger took the start from tenth on the grid, and with some quick pit work by the Michael Shank Racing crew and some outstanding driving by the NASCAR-bound American, moved into the lead early in the second hour of racing. Allmendinger easily built a twelve-second gap over the rest of the field before turning the car over to James.
The run at the front was thwarted when a tire gave out under braking and James was forced behind the wall for the first time. The Lexus and TRD support staff worked relentlessly to correct a problem with the alternator to get the 6 car back on track.
Negri took the start in the Fresh From Florida machine in twenty-second position, but made quick work of the field to move the Lexus up to fourth by the end of the second hour. Negri turned the car over to Castroneves, who kept the car in the lead pack before turning the driving duties over to his Penske teammate Hornish. The Defiance, Ohio, native was keeping up the pace in his second career Rolex start, but was stopped on course with a driveline issue. The Fresh From Florida machine was towed back to the garage, and the MSR crew made quick work of the repairs, but the team had a big hill to climb after losing so many laps from the tow back to the garage.
Despite falling off the front page of the scoring monitors, the Michael Shank Racing entries kept up the pace and began to work back up the order. Both team cars had been quick throughout the week leading up to the race, and continued to show impressive speed all day and all night.
Unfortunately, the great speed of the Fresh From Florida machine was severely hindered in an incident just after midnight as Castroneves was hit from behind heading into turn three. The damage to the rear clip of the car prevented the team from replacing the engine cover, which greatly reduced the aerodynamic efficiency of the Lexus/Riley and hindered the pace for the remainder of the event.
Despite the set-backs, the team kept the pressure on through the long night and heavy rain to keep working back up the order. After breaking into the top ten with just under an hour to go, the Fresh From Florida crew's efforts were further rewarded when Patterson made the move to ninth on the final lap of the 24 hour event.
Henri Zogaib brought the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley home across the line sixteenth in the Daytona Prototype class in his first Rolex finish, much to the thrill of the many friends and family the Florida resident had on hand for the event.
Michael Shank Racing will return to action in one month at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. The team was fantastically quick on the 2.5-mile road course in 2006, and will look to make the quick conversion to the sprint format (400k) South of the Border before returning to race Stateside in Homestead, Florida at the end of March.