Strong Pace but Bad Luck For Michael Shank Racing at Mid-Ohio
Late race skirmishes cost possible podium
Lexington, Ohio (17 September 2011) –Michael Shank Racing showed strong pace in the season-ending EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but some bad racing luck thwarted the team’s chances at a return to the podium on the home track.
The No. 60 Crown Royal Ford-Riley of John Pew and Ozz Negri finished eighth and the No. 23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley came home seventh in the final GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race of the year.
After getting off to a tough start when Pew was forced wide and into the grass on the opening lap, the team rallied back to have Negri in podium position for over 20 laps by the middle stages of the race.
Unfortunately, that strong run was curtailed when Negri was forced off-course to avoid a spinning car. While the incident, which saw Negri deftly and decidedly move out of the way, meant that he avoided what would have likely been a very big hit, it cost a significant price in terms of track position. After a quick pit stop, Negri returned to the field in 10th, moving up to finish eighth at the checkered flag.
“We were there (in a podium position),” said Negri. “We were going to stay there, we had the pace to be there. The 90 spun and I had absolutely no where to go other than in the grass, which just filled the radiator with grass. We fought pretty hard to be there. It was like a huge rollercoaster today with the problem that John had and then just the whole thing. My radio didn’t connect properly on the driver change, so it was hard. But we kept fighting. We were right where we wanted to be, had a good pit stop. There was a close moment with the 99 coming out of the pits, but it was ok. It is a shame, we have so many people here to support Mike (Shank) and we really wanted to finish on the podium again. But we will keep fighting and working for the future to be back and even stronger.”
“It was too bad because I think we could have done well. It’s too bad that Ozz had to miss that car,” said Pew. “He did a good job missing the 90 when it spun, but got grass in the radiator. He did a fantastic job. I got held up a little bit at the start when one car checked up, and so I had to check up and then I got side by side with another car, who ran me in to the grass. That completely changed our race, but the guys kept fighting back. So it is too bad not to come out of the race with more to show for that effort today. Great job by the team once again.”
The No. 23 United Autosports machine was also a factor in the race. Mark Blundell opened from fifth on the grid and moved up to third before turning the machine over to Zak Brown. Despite feeling a little under the weather during the weekend, Brown put his previous experience on the 2.258-mile track to good use as he wheeled the middle stages of the 2.5-hour race.
Blundell took the controls once again with the red, white, and blue machine in good position, and was dicing with the full range of top-five runners late in the race. Blundell is a driver who has seen a lot on tracks across the world in his years of top flight racing, but he wasn’t particularly thrilled with what he saw in the final laps at Mid-Ohio after getting kicked around and having to bring the battered machine home in seventh.
“Mark drove fantastically,” said Brown. “He pulled his weight and mine! I don’t think the result showed how competitive we were. I think we could have easily been top-three. We ran there earlier in the race. We got hit a little bit there in the end but that happens on the last lap. It was a very good weekend. The team did a fantastic job. I was a little sick over the weekend so I’m glad everything is in one piece and it was a very competitive outing.”
“I’m very happy with today’s overall performance. Zak got stronger with every session over the past two days while the team did a great job once again. Our race pace was strong throughout and we were right in the mix up until the checker. Unfortunately I was given a nudge by the #9 car in the closing laps which caused me to lose out on a possible top-four so I feel disappointed for the team. I have really enjoyed racing in GRAND-AM. It’s been very competitive and I believe it’s an underrated series in the motorsport world. There are some top flight drivers and teams competing providing close wheel-to-wheel racing. Achieving a top-four at Daytona was brilliant and I must thank Zak [Brown] for giving me the opportunity.”
“It was a super, super tough day for us today,” said team owner Mike Shank. “I’m really, really happy with the pace of both cars. Just lots of miscellaneous things went wrong that we really couldn’t recover from but all four drivers did a great job. Super happy with the pace of Blundell and Oswaldo – just great. We just didn’t have the track position at the end of the day. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up and start working on next year. We have some very exciting things coming together, and we are all looking forward to whats next.”
Michael Shank Racing will be making announcements about the team’s future plans in the coming weeks.