Michael Shank Racing Targets Strong Close to 2009 Rolex Season at Homestead Miami Speedway 7 October 2009--Back in 2004, Oswaldo Negri charged onto the Rolex Sports Car Series scene with his run to a podium finish at Homestead Miami Speedway ...
Michael Shank Racing Targets Strong Close to 2009 Rolex Season at Homestead Miami Speedway
7 October 2009--Back in 2004, Oswaldo Negri charged onto the Rolex Sports Car Series scene with his run to a podium finish at Homestead Miami Speedway driving for Michael Shank Racing in just the team's second start in the category. Fast forward five years, and the Miami resident has made the Homestead track his second home, returning to the Rolex podium with co-driver Mark Patterson in 2008 and also making a trip to the rostrum in his Grand-Am KONI Challenge debut this March.
So it comes as little surprise that Negri and the rest of the Michael Shank Racing organization are looking forward to this Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami to close out the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series season.
Negri and Patterson will co-drive the familiar No. 60 Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype, with John Pew and Michael Valiante sharing the No. 6 Ford Riley as the duo look to solidify their fifth place position in the championship standings.
"Racing at Homestead is a thrill for me because I get to experience what I love doing, racing in the Rolex Series, in front of my friends and family and I get to have them right there with me so it is very special," said Negri, who also frequents the facility as he oversees the burgeoning careers of young karters.
"This race is usually at the beginning of the season and of course I wish it was again and we had more races to go because our cars have been so strong and I want keep racing! But it is still going to be a great way to close out the year in my own back yard. Mark has been working so hard and never stops improving, so hopefully we can start the weekend strong, avoid any bad luck, and finish the year with a podium result."
The close of the year sees Patterson continue his streak of consecutive Rolex Series starts, which stretches back to the Watkins Glen sprint event in 2005, where he and Negri scored third in just their third start together.
Mastering the interaction between Homesteads notoriously abrasive surface with the Pirelli tires will be key to the engineers task list this weekend, and Patterson is happy to make the most of the additional temperature on offer this weekend racing in mid-October: "It should be ten degrees warmer, so on this tire eating surface we'll have slightly more grip, deeper into the race and for a driver, what's not to like about that? For the various misfortunes we've suffered on occasion through the year, we've nonetheless consistently shown up to the track with very capable cars and we expect to do the same this weekend. Hopefully we can score well and impress Claudia and the entire Ozz Negri Fan Club that will be with us this weekend!"
And Negri isn't the only local on the team, as John Pew relishes the copious karting opportunities as well as the ocean-proximate setting that racing in the Miami area has on offer.
With but one Rolex start in a Daytona Prototype at Homestead, the West Palm Beach resident has more races under his belt at the Homestead kart track than the oval-based infield road circuit, but he's no less enthusiastic about the season finale event.
"Racing at Homestead is great for me because I'm down there all the time anyway to kart!" said Pew. "I'm pretty optimistic about the weekend because we've just been so quick and I think this is going to be a good track for us. Hopefully we can finish the year the same way we did last season. This season has gone by really quickly and it's hard to believe we're already at the finale but we are all looking to make the most of it."
For Valiante, the trek to Homestead marks the furthest event from his Vancouver home of all the Rolex races during the 2009 season, but he's also shown himself to be right at home on the 2.3-mile circuit, qualifying on the front row and leading 20 laps at the track last year.
The team closed the 2008 Rolex season with a flourish, scoring two wins to bookended the season having opened with a front row monopoly at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. With just 2.5 hours of racing left to go in 2009, that kind of end of season-close is exactly the target on Saturday.
"We had such a strong finish to the season last year and even though we've had tremendous performance with the cars, we've not had all the results that we were going for this year," said team owner Mike Shank. "But hopefully we can make up for that this weekend. The test we did at Homestead earlier this season went very well and we just want to put that progress to good use this weekend to go out on a strong note with both cars."
The race isn't the only thing for the team to look forward to, as team members will also celebrate the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season in the year-end banquet in style on Monday evening at the Hard Rock Cafe.