Michael Shank Racing Takes a Fighting Fifth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Monterey, CA) 17 May 2009- On the same track where the team made its first two-car Daytona Prototype race outing in 2005, Michael Shank Racing returned to Mazda Raceway...
Michael Shank Racing Takes a Fighting Fifth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
(Monterey, CA) 17 May 2009- On the same track where the team made its first two-car Daytona Prototype race outing in 2005, Michael Shank Racing returned to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to once again post strong results on Sunday as Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri finished the Verizon Festival of Speed 5th and the sister Ford-Riley of John Pew and Michael Valiante came home in 7th.
The team was right on the pace throughout the race weekend, once again topping the time sheets through most of the sessions leading up to the 2 hour, 45-minute event for round four of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series season.
With contact in the last two race outings, the opening laps have not been kind to Michael Shank Racing of late. But on Sunday, both cars got off to a flying start. Starting from 7th (Patterson) and 9th (Pew) on the grid, two were soon running 5th and 6th, and as other teams took to the pits for early fuel stops, saw Pew and Patterson running in 2nd and 3rd.
But that early advantage was lost when a yellow flag came out at a crucial junction of the race. Grand Am rules require that both drivers run for at least 30 minutes in order to earn championship points. With the timing of the yellow, Patterson and Pew had to wait until just before the track went back to green before heading to the pits for service and a driver change. That gave Negri and Valiante a to-do list that was quite extensive as they rejoined the action 25th and 26th on the order after the field had retaken the green flag.
But with cars that were the class of the field all weekend long, the duo ran nose to tail to move up the order and finish 5th and 7th.
"It's a disappointing result considering our performance all weekend long, but on the other hand, there just wasn't anything we could do with the way the yellow timed out and that really bit us today," said team owner Mike Shank. "But we will take this and build on it at Watkins Glen. We've always been fast there and the long races suit us as well, so we will try to pick up some momentum in the points there."
The race had half as many yellow flag periods as it did last year, and that didn't always play into the hands of the No. 60.
"I kept getting traffic at the worst times and the tires just weren't there after the second restart, so even though we made up so much ground early in the race, we weren't able to fight for a podium today," said Negri, who set the very first pole position in Grand-Am's inaugural visit to the track in 2005,. "But the strategy was perfect and our pit stops were great, so this was a really good weekend for us. We were fast and really executed all weekend long, so now we will try to get back on the podium at Watkins Glen."
Patterson matched the benchmark that Pew set at VIR by qualifying 7th on the grid with a time just over one second off the pole. And he kept that pace going to open the race with another run at the sharp end of the field before handing off to Negri.
"There was some real fighting going on out there and it was just fantastic to watch," said Patterson, who was also fetted in the post-race ceremonies with the Trueman Award medal. "It was a shame with the timing on the yellow, but both Ozz and Michael drove a fantastic race today. Now it's on to the Glen--we've had great cars on that track and this team is really good in the endurance races, so hopefully we can do well there."
The most hair-raising moment of the day came in the downhill section as Valiante fought to make another podium appearance. But contact with the #10 as the two encountered GT traffic sent Valiante spinning and damaged the car enough to slow the pace for the rest of the race. While the contact hampered the race pace in the closing stages for the machine, there was no second-guessing his ambitions.
"You have to go for it in this series, and if that move had worked out, we'd probably be on the podium right now," said Pew. "So it was a shame that it didn't work out, but Michael did a great job to still bring that car home 7th even with the damage. We had a great car and great pit stops today so we were well on our way to a podium but the racing luck just didn't go our way today. We'll get them at the Glen."
"The GT car was a little unpredictable and I'm not sure he saw us coming, but I tried to go outside but it didn't work out and I got spun," said Valiante. "I could have laid back, but we're trying to win when we have a car this good so I just went for it. Otherwise this weekend was nearly perfect, from the car to the strategy. It's disappointing to not come out of this weekend with more, but we will just come back and try to do better at the Glen."