Michael Shank Racing press release
Bizarre Barber Nets Disappointment for Michael Shank Racing
Birmingham, Ala. (31 March 2012) – As the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series staged Round 2 of the 2012 season at Barber Motorsports Park, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian had been looking to build on the positive momentum from the team’s season-opening race at Daytona.
Unfortunately, despite having an outstanding opening stint, a bizarre on-track incident saw a GT class machine driving counter-race on a blind section of track erasing hopes for what had been a podium-promising outing.
John Pew started the race from behind the wheel in fifth, having set the fastest time of all Ford racers as a bevy of Corvettes locked out the front positions. Pew settled into fifth at the start, losing a spot to Ricky Taylor after the youngster benefitted from a full course caution that slowed the field and erased Pew’s gap. But Pew was not done, regaining the spot with an outstanding outside pass of Taylor as the defending pole-winner was tripped up by GT traffic. Pew moved further up the order to run fourth when the Ganassi machine pitted early for a flat spotted tire.
But it wasn’t just pit strategy and traffic that kept Pew in touch with the pro pack of leaders, as his relentless pace kept him firmly in touch with the lead pack on the 2.3-mile circuit. Making the most of the grip available on a track that is notorious for tire wear, Pew reeled off laps that were just tenths behind those set by the high downforce Corvette machines that were ideally suited to the track.
Alas, the effort came to a halt when a GT car had spun off course and inexplicably drove back onto the track unsighted on a blind corner, giving Pew no option but to take to the grass and not hit the other car broadside. The aero front splitter caught the rain-sodden turf, and immediately dug in and stopped the car.
“I was coming down the straight toward the museum turns and there were waving yellows so I’m thinking there is the usual spin at the bottom,” reflected Pew of the incident. “So I slowed down and I come around and I start to turn to the right and this guy is backing out right on the track. There was no way to stop because I would I have hit him, and I didn’t have any option but the grass. It was just very unfortunate because we had such a good car and I was maintaining a good pace, but at that point there was nothing I could do to avoid it.”
The incident forced Pew to wait for nearly three laps before being excavated from the grass and getting back to the pits. Remarkably, the splitter damage was not as severe as might be expected and the team replaced the front nose as Ozz Negri strapped into the car to run to the finish as he rejoined the field 27th and rallied back for an eighth place result.
“I feel really sorry for John because he drove really, really well,” said Negri, who had been hoping to have more to celebrate in his 100th Rolex Series start. “He was keeping up with the 01 and the 10. I think if we were in the mix of things I think we had a car to fight for the podium and it’s unfortunate because once you’re out there a few laps down behind the group, what can you do? It’s not the way I wanted it to be, but that’s the way it is and we’ll take it.”
“John just did a fantastic job. I’m super happy for him - he just got caught out,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We were hoping for a lot more out of this weekend, and even though we knew the Chevys had everyone covered, the car was strong enough to have fought for a podium so that’s tough to take. But some things you just can’t control, so we’ll pack up and get ready for Homestead and look to be even stronger there.”