Michael Shank Racing New Jersey Race Ends Early After Getting Hit Twice
Michael Shank Racing drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew faced another grueling day at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Round 9 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series as extremely hot and humid conditions enveloped the New Jersey circuit for the third straight day.
Pew opened the American Red Cross 250 from the seventh position and made a move forward in the first turn to run in the sixth spot. Despite the intense heat of the day, all of the training and karting that Pew and Negri do in preparation for these types of conditions paid off as he set a strong race pace as the race ran under green flag conditions for over 40 minutes.
Following a strong first stint in the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley, Pew handed the car over to Negri who kept moving up until the race saw its first full course caution. As the race restarted on lap 45 and Negri looked to move forward, his forward progress was halted as he was hip-checked mid-corner by a competitor, dropping the No. 60 down the order. Negri battled back to run as high as fifth before pitting to hand the controls over to Pew to run through the middle stint.
Once again Pew was right on the pace as he managed the middle miles of the race before one final pit stop for fuel, Continental Tires, and driver change as the race entered the final segment.
He again assumed the strong pace of the No. 60 machine before handing the car back over to Negri to finish out the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, Negri did not get to see the checkered flag wave as the run was cut short with 25 minutes to go. The No. 60 car was knocked off track by a competitor and the car sustained significant damage to the right-front suspension, ending the team’s day early.
“John had another great day-he did two stints in this heat, a huge effort from him,” said team owner Mike Shank. “He’s really figured something out with these tires I think because in both stints, his times were as good as or better than the leader late in the run. Unfortunately that is the only bright spot from the race for us. This was a hugely disappointing day for us.”
“I have no idea what he was doing out there, it was completely unsporting the way the No. 77 was driving,” said Pew. “I was catching him by 2, 3, seconds a lap but when I went to pass him, he’d chop down on me every time I got next to him. It was so frustrating to be held up for several laps by a guy you are lapping. Between that experience, and seeing Ozz get hit twice, it was really very frustrating day.”
“I don’t know what they want from me,” said an exasperated Negri. “First, the five car hit me and both cars from the team got by. From there, the car just wasn’t the same. After I took over from John to go to the finish, we were a lap down but I had much better tires after pitting. The nine car leaves me the door open and I go inside, but then-BAM! Slams right into me. I was on new tires so we were much faster. I just don’t understand what he was doing trying to fight like that when we were so much quicker. And that contact with the nine car finished the job that the five car started, and broke the suspension and I just couldn’t go further. Just an incredible shame.”