Michael Shank Racing Set For Watkins Glen Sprint
Watkins Glen, N.Y. (12 August 2011) – Michael Shank Racing driver John Pew will start Saturday night’s Canadian Tire 200 from the fourth row, with United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing pilot Mark Blundell set to take the green flag from 11th on the Watkins Glen grid after a 15-minute qualifying session set the grid on Friday night for round 10 of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.
Pew’s time was little over one second from snaring a spot on the front row as the field was once again a thinly-cut group on the timing sheets. Pew will open the race from behind the wheel of the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley machine before turning the car over to Ozz Negri to power to the finish.
Blundell, who is adding yet another new track to his global racing resume with his debut visit to the upstate New York facility, will also take the green flag for the two-hour sprint race before turning the machine over to co-driver Zak Brown, who is making his first-ever Daytona Prototype start at Watkins Glen.
With three practice sessions in the morning hours before the late afternoon qualifying session, the No. 60 got off to a quick start on the day, running the second fastest time in the opening two practice sessions and then third quickest in the third. The day concluded with a final night practice.
“The conditions after both the other NASCAR series practiced today were a lot different and even though we knew that would be the case, it was just a lot more so than we expected in qualifying,” said Pew, who continued to shave chunks of time off his best lap through the session. “So our fastest lap was our eighth lap, when we expected it to be our third. That meant that by the time the track came to us, we were pretty far up on the tire pressures so there just wasn’t anything more to get out of the car. Overall, the balance was good but we just lost grip. We’ll keep working on it here in the final practice and see what we can come up with for the race.”
With a condensed schedule and limited running time on the big NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend, the drivers of the United Autosports Ford-Riley have had to come to grips with an unfamiliar track in the highest of pressure situations, but have continued to hit their marks and keep improving each time out.
“I’ve only done a handful of laps here before this weekend, and that was in a (Porsche) 962,” said Brown, who was part of the fourth-place finishing effort in the Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the season. “That car had a lot of downforce, so I’m learning it again in the DP. It’s great to be back with Mark and Mike, and I’m just excited to get back with the program this weekend.”
“We seemed to have improved our balance, especially from entry to mid-corner, but regretfully now we are fighting with some understeer and that’s hurting us both on exit speed and terminal speed,” said Blundell. “So all we could do is match our time from this morning, and that’s not ideal. We’ll keep working on it, I think there is going to be a lot of activity on circuit tomorrow in the race, and we’ll do what we can.”
“Both our cars are good,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We didn’t get everything we could in qualifying and the guys just struggled a bit with overall grip. But we’ve got another session tonight and it’s the same kind of conditions we’ll have tomorrow in the race so hopefully we can make the most of it.”