Michael Shank Racing Starts Rolex 24 At Daytona With Strong Qualifying
(Daytona Beach, FL) 22 January 2009- Michael Shank Racing will start the 47th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona from 3rd and 12th on the grid as the team got a strong start to the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series season in qualifying on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Michael Valiante scored a fast lap time of 1:40.651-seconds in his first Michael Shank Racing qualifying outing as the Canadian hot shoe threatened for the pole until the closing moments of qualifying in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley. No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley full-season drivers John Pew and Valiante will be joined by experienced Michael Shank Racing pilot Ian James and NASCAR racer AJ Allmendinger for the 24.
"I had one last chance for a fast lap right at the end of the session, but unfortunately I just got caught behind the Penske car so I didn't quite get the time that the car was capable of," said Valiante. "So it's disappointing not to be able to take the pole but of course this is a very long race, and the big thing is that we have a very fast car here and we know we are as prepared as possible. It's great to be back with Ford again this year and everyone is just focused on establishing a good race pace and we've got exactly the car to do just that."
No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley full-season drivers Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri will be joined by the 2008 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay and 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Colin Braun this weekend to start the season. Defending pole sitter and track record holder Negri was disappointed with the result of the 15-minute qualifying session as he'll slot into the sixth row, but he wasn't disappointed with the Westfield Insurance car or how the weekend had started off as he looks to return to the Rolex podium once again.
"The car felt fine balance-wise and we were really good under braking, but we just weren't able to get the power down as well as we have before and that cost us a little bit," said Negri. "It was great to be on pole last year of course, but we're really focused on 3:30 Sunday (race finish time) more than 3:30 on Saturday. I was surprised with the position on the grid, because the car felt really good. But that's what we need, a car that's in the sweet spot for everyone over a long tire run, and not just fast for one lap. I'm really looking forward to this race. This team is so focused, I just can't wait to get going."
The qualifying session came in the middle of a long first day of race action, as the teams worked through a long first day of practice, qualifying, and then night practice on Thursday at the "World Center of Speed."
"It's a long race," said Team owner Mike Shank as he reviewed the timing monitors following qualifying. "We've been quick right off the truck with both cars, and we just didn't get it perfect with both cars like we did last year. But we know we've got great cars, and an awesome drivers line up, so now it's just time to get ready for the start on Saturday, get this race going, stay out of trouble, and hopefully be in a position to race for a win on Sunday afternoon."