Michael Shank Racing takes fifth in Long Beach (Long Beach, CA) 8 April 06-- The Rolex Sports Car Series first visit to the famed Long Beach Grand Prix went almost exactly according to plan for Michael Shank Racing, as Mark Patterson and...
Michael Shank Racing takes fifth in Long Beach
(Long Beach, CA) 8 April 06-- The Rolex Sports Car Series first visit to the famed Long Beach Grand Prix went almost exactly according to plan for Michael Shank Racing, as Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri teamed up to bring the Lexus-powered Flight Options Riley a fine fifth place finish in the ninety-minute race.
Patterson started from fifteenth on the grid for his first-ever street race, and continued to show that he was unbowed by the challenge, as kept up the pace and moved up one position in the early laps before turning the car over to Negri with the car on the lead lap. Negri retook to the track from fifteenth position after the field cycled through their pit stops.
Negri made solid progress, often making passes that his competitors simply couldn't pull off, as he picked his way up into fifth place with the laps counting down.
"We have had a couple of tough races the last two races, so I wanted to be a little conservative and just make sure we got to the finish," said Negri. "So I'd study the cars ahead and just focus on where they were weak, so I was able to make some good clean passes and move up pretty well."
The strong finish was thrown into doubt in the closing laps, as the Brazilian hotshoe feared something might be amiss with the car.
"In the last few laps, something sounded funny with the engine, so I just backed off and made sure we got to the finish," said Negri. "Fortunately, everything was fine and we finished without a problem and hopefully can pick up some momentum in the points."
The result is the second top-five for the team so far this season, and the teamwork was clear all around in the sprint format event as good drivers partnered with a great team to bring home a good result.
"Watching Oz make up all that time to the guys in front each lap was really something else," said Patterson. "The car was beautifully set up, and it just gave me the confidence to keep finding more time out there without having to do anything silly. I think if Oz had a few more laps, the guys ahead would have been in trouble, but its good to get another solid points finish under our belt, and we'll be looking for more of the same at VIR."
Michael Shank Racing opened up the 2006 season with a strong second place finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the Long Beach result will help towards working back up the championship points standings.
"Mark and Oz did really well today," said team owner Mike Shank. "I think if we were running a normal distance race, there is no question we'd have been on the podium today. But, we stayed out of trouble and Oz made up a lot of spots, so we'll take this top-five and keep working. There really isn't much room to pass here, but Oz made it happen time and again. The car doesn't have a scratch on it, so now we can just start getting ready for VIR."
The Rolex Sports Car Series will race again at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of April 21-3, and the series will employ a new qualifying format with sprint races to set the field.