Austin, Texas - The many fans of Michael Shank Racing experienced a full range of emotions on Saturday as the team made a dramatic debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for Round 2 of the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championship.
The weekend marked the opening of a new chapter, not only for the series with the first-ever run on the Formula 1-grade facility, but it was also the first showing for an exciting new two-car DP line up.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of John Pew and Ozz Negri was joined by the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of Gustavo Yacaman and Antonio Pizzonia, who was making his Rolex Series debut and driving a Daytona Prototype for the first time.
Pew opened up the race from 11th on the grid and shrewdly avoided any carnage in the signature tight Turn 1 at the start and then moved up to run in ninth for his opening stint. Yacaman’s first DP sprint race start saw him have an immediate impact, moving up to run fourth in the opening laps.
With a clean and green opening segment of the race, the event settled into a rhythm before a car became stranded on course. Sensing that the field could go yellow, the team called Pew in for a quick pit stop, turning the car over to Negri. When that yellow in fact flew, the move put the No. 60 up to second in the order as the other teams cycled through their own stops.
Yacaman continued to mix it up with the lead pack before turning the car over to Pizzonia as the race clicked off the 40th lap. Negri continued to fight, but the effort was thwarted when he was hit from behind, sending him spinning off track.
A return to the pit lane saw him return to action, only to fall afoul of a cut tire, which left him stranded on track and forced to watch the end of the race from the sidelines.
A fierce battle for the lead pack saw a series of dramatic twists and turns, with Pizzonia sizing up his new competition, which was on full display.
A podium possibility seemed well in play until he, too, fell afoul of contact from another car and was sent spinning to a seventh place finish.
“It was a tough day,” offered team owner Mike Shank. “We had moments of brilliance and tough times at the end. Both Gustavo and Antonio had really, really good stints in their first DP race.
For the most part it was very good. We’ll go to Barber - we have a pretty good car there traditionally - so we’ll go there and see what we can do."
Michael Shank Racing will next travel to Barber Motorsports Park April 3-6. The team has traditionally run well there having scored a podium finish at the track four times.
John Pew, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “They made some improvements with the car and my goal was just to stay with the group of cars I was with and maybe get around one of the cars that I wanted to get around which I did. There were some accidents up ahead with the DPs so we were in ninth place when we gave it to Ozz so I’m happy with that.
We didn’t get too far behind the leaders and we managed traffic pretty well and caught people at the right time. So I’m happy. I ran a full tank of fuel. This is an awesome track. It’s not an easy track by any measure.
It’s a very technical track and you have to learn the flow it of it. But I like it because I like technical tracks that make you think. It’s a very beautiful track and a fan friendly track so I really enjoyed it.
Ozz Negri, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “It was tough. I knew it was going to be hard to hold the guys there and I just tried to do the best I could to stay up front and stay close to the pack. Suddenly by the end of the stint I started catching them - getting closer. I really worked on my in lap and my out lap.
We were able to pick up a few spots brilliantly. Then we got unlucky catching GTs in awkward spots which allowed the 90 car to catch me and for a few laps we raced clean but then I just got hit in the back. I was just mad at the end result, but you can’t change anything. I worked very hard to be here and we’ll be looking forward to Barber.”
Gustavo Yacaman, No 6 Ford-Riley: “It was a completely different animal at this race. It was the first time that we ever ran here so when we first got here we didn’t have the car figured out at all. At Daytona it’s basically showing up and doing minor changes because we basically have the car all figured out for that track.
Here we made big, big changes and we were making gains throughout the weekend. I think we ended up with a good car overall. As far as the racing went, I had a lot of fun. It’s way more fun than racing open wheel. It just plays out that you’re a lot busier throughout the race than you are in open wheel racing.
In the open wheel race you go out and everyone more or less has the same pace while here with all the GTs playing a part in the race, it stretches and you get closer and then someone gets bogged down and you get a run on them so you get to pass them so it was definitely a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to the next race.”
Antonio Pizzonia, No. 6 Ford-Riley: “It’s a learning process. Our radio wasn’t working, so that makes the racing a bit more difficult. With all of the strategies going on, that was a little frustrating. But the race was fine, I had some good battles out there and it was fun for sure.
It was a learning process and we have to take it easy and learn every time we go to the track. I like Circuit of the Americas a lot. I’ve been to so many different tracks in my life, and I’ll tell you, this is a really good one.”
Michael Shank Racing