Michael Shank Racing strong in Mexico City Race (Mexico City, MX) 19 April 08 --Michael Shank Racing transporter drivers Ralph Lohr and Mark Legge logged some 2,304 miles from the team shop outside of Columbus, Ohio, to Mexico City to be ready...
Michael Shank Racing strong in Mexico City Race
(Mexico City, MX) 19 April 08 --Michael Shank Racing transporter drivers Ralph Lohr and Mark Legge logged some 2,304 miles from the team shop outside of Columbus, Ohio, to Mexico City to be ready for round three of the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season. It was a long trip south, but the tour was well worth the trip as both team entries completed the Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 250 in fine form. The No. 60 Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri finished a fighting fifth, as the No. 6 Ford-Riley of John Pew and Ian James came home in sixth.
"The race played out even better than we expected," said team owner Mike Shank. "The yellow flags came out at good times for us and our pit windows, and the guys just did the rest. We didn't think we had what we needed to challenge for the podium today, but fifth and sixth is certainly a strong team result, and good championship points for both cars. And with VIR just a week away, it's good that both our cars are both good to go next weekend--some marks from some close Rolex racing, but nothing that's going to get in the way of us being ready to go again right off the truck at VIR."
Patterson and Pew started the race from ninth and thirteenth on the grid, and both found the early laps to be a challenge after track conditions were all-new, as track temperatures soared higher than they had been all weekend.
"First I want to congratulate Jim Matthews on his win today," said Patterson. "We started this race with the goal of finishing sixth, so to go one better and take fifth is fantastic. Oz did a great job out there, gaining spots and never giving up until the race was over. The car was a bit of a handful for me in the early laps, but once we burned off some fuel, it really came in to it's own. The passion of these Mexican fans is unmatched, and I think everyone can be happy about the show we put on for them today."
"I didn't get the start that I wanted at all," said Pew. "I got boxed in, and it looked like there was going to be a pile up right in front of me so I backed out of it. Turns out everyone got through fine, but Jim Matthews took the spot away from me. I can't blame him-I'd have done the same thing! But the rubber that the NASCAR guys put down before our race really didn't do much for our car in the early stages. It got better as the laps went on, but it was a struggle initially. Ian did a great job at the end, just fighting all the way. Now I'm looking forward to getting to VIR because I don't really have that many laps in a DP there, so it's going to be a new challenge."
A well-timed caution period saw the field regroup as Patterson and Pew turned the 60 and the 6 over to Negri and James. The race witnessed three caution periods, setting the stage for a final fifty laps of all-green race action. Both Negri and James made the most of the flat-out running, moving from top ten positions up to take fifth and sixth at the checkered flags, as the two team entries moved nearly in tandem up the order.
"I was a bit conservative in the beginning because I wanted to save tires for later in the run, and it paid off when I got those two positions late in the race," said Negri. "We had some understeer early on and I had to be patient on the throttle, but the car just kept getting better as the race went on. I'm happy to leave here with another top five, some good points, and a car that we can go straight to VIR with and be competitive. This was a good weekend overall for us, and we'll keep up the fight at VIR."
"The car was really good at the end of the run and we were able to pick up some places late in the race," said James. "I had some problems with lapped traffic, but sometimes that's the way it can be. It's frustrating, but a top six is a good result and some good points, so we will just get back at it again next weekend at VIR."
Ralph and Mark will have to wait out the Mexico City NASCAR race on Sunday before the entire paddock moves out together for the 1,400 mile convoy back to Texas before heading East for a stop at the shop and a quick turn to get ready for VIR.