Pataskala, Ohio (6 June 2012) - When hometown favorites Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian and drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew arrive at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the EMCO Gears Classic and Round 6 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, the team and central Ohio fans alike have even more reason to celebrate as Michael Shank Racing returns home as the 2012 Rolex 24 Champion.
GRAND-AM regulars Ozz Negri and John Pew were joined by NASCAR star AJ Allmendinger and IndyCar racer Justin Wilson for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona driving the No. 60 Liveon Ford-Riley in the historic event. It was the first victory in nine attempts for the Shank squad and the win was further bolstered by the strong finish of the sister No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Daytona Prototype which finished third with drivers Michael McDowell, Felipe Nasr, Jorge Goncalvez and Gustavo Yacaman.
While a pair of promising outings in subsequent rounds saw the team face some bad racing luck following the huge Rolex 24 win to open the season, Michael Shank Racing has shown strong pace at every track so far this year. The team is fresh off a hard-fought fifth place finish in GRAND-AM’s debut through the streets of Detroit just last week in a race that saw Negri masterfully defend against the higher downforce Chevy machines throughout the final stint.
“It was pretty exciting - I didn’t even see the time go by because every lap was an adventure,” said Negri of the Detroit race. “I knew it was going to be hard to hold the position but I just had to do what I am paid to do and I thought I was doing a fine and honest job. All in all, it was a good result and now we’re second in the championship heading to Mid-Ohio. Every race is important, but this is Mike’s home race and there is always a little extra motivation for us there--and some extra fans!”
As the team returns to Mid-Ohio as the Rolex 24 Champions, the group is even more motivated to score their first home track victory this weekend. The Pataskala-based team came close to winning when the No. 60 claimed the runner-up spot in the 2010 event and was followed not far behind by the sister No. 6 Michael Shank Racing entry in fourth, showing that the team knows what it takes to get to the Mid-Ohio podium.
Michael Shank Racing was on pace for a Mid-Ohio podium return last year until Negri was forced off course to avoid a spinning car late in the race and although he was able to avoid a big hit, he lost significant track position – leaving the team to settle for an eighth place result.
Following the big win at Daytona, Michael Shank Racing would like nothing more than to top it off with another victory lane celebration – this time in front of their hometown crowd.
“We’re excited to see what we can do this weekend,” said team owner Mike Shank. “Opening the year with the win at Daytona was a great way to start the year off. It’s going to be tough against the higher downforce Chevys again but we’ll do the best job we can and hopefully get another strong result this weekend in front of our family and friends here at Mid-Ohio.”
While some rules adjustments between the Ford and Chevrolet powered machines are likely not to go as far as the team was hoping in terms of making for a level playing field, the playbook will be the same for the team. John Pew is set to qualify and then open the 2.75-hour race before turning the car over to Negri. Pew has made a habit of both strong qualifying performances and stout race day stints. Detroit was no different as he overcame a car with some high speed push to move up to fourth before turning the car over to Negri.
“When we raced at Mid-Ohio in 2010 and got on the podium after Mike had the car fire at the Glen the week before, it was an incredible result for the whole team and really showed what this group is made of,” said Pew. “We know that the ‘Vettes should have the advantage again this weekend, but we are still going to fight to be in a strong position and get as many points as possible. It’s great to be coming ‘home’ to Mid-Ohio second in the championship, and who knows what will happen this weekend!”