Michael Shank Racing Hits the Track Ahead of Sprint Season
“Florida Tour” as team looks to extend podium appearance records at Barber Park...
Sebring, Florida (10 March 2012) - Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian returned to action this week as the Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning squad made the most of a Florida tour with two days of testing with the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley. Drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew combined to clock hundreds of laps on the week as the team focuses on the upcoming sprint rounds of GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition.
The team opened the week with one day of testing at Palm Beach International Raceway on Wednesday before moving to the storied Sebring International Raceway for a second day of testing on Friday.
The Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park will mark just the second race appearance for the all-new, third-generation Riley Daytona Prototype. Michael Shank Racing, which was the first squad to take delivery of the car and put it through its paces just over one month before making an outstanding debut at Daytona, is eager to continue to learn about the new car as the Rolex Sports Car Series returns to sprint format events for the next six rounds.
“As many miles as we put in at Daytona, we are still scratching the surface with this new Riley,” said team owner Mike Shank of the record-setting distance the team covered in the opening round of the season. “For a race like the 24, you focus on a race set up, and stick with it. So we didn’t really spend a lot of time learning about what the car likes in other circumstances. That was what this test was all about--building our notebook to be not just ready for the next few rounds, but also be as efficient as we can with each of these weekends. You forget, with the way that the 24 went for us, that this is still a brand new car and there is a lot to learn yet.”
With the win comes the Rolex Sports Car Series championship points lead for Michael Shank Racing, which also leads the North American Endurance Challenge standing as well. The NEC is a championship within a championship, and will score points for teams at the Watkins Glen 6 Hour and at the Super Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Sebring visit marked the first time that many on the team had been to the track for a long time.
“Driving down route 17 brought back a lot of good memories,” smiled Negri, who used to find himself at Sebring regularly as a driver coach and test driver for Skip Barber Racing. “It was good to get back there and to just keep learning the car. It went really well and I think for John and I both, we’ve enjoyed this feeling of winning the 24, but now we are all about the rest of the season and just being as consistently strong as we can be. These two days of testing will hopefully put us in a position to do that when we get to the sprint races. We’ve got a little bit of a break between the 24 and Barber, but this is going to be a very busy season and this prep will be key.”
The Sebring visit saw the team sharing the airport-based track with a significant contingent of IndyCar squads that were on hand for the second half of the “Spring Training” 2012 season opening event for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“It was good to get over there and take in what was happening,” said Shank. “We’ve had some of our team members participating in the Lotus tests before and it was good to see things continue to move forward. We of course would love to have been down there taking part with the IndyCar side of our team, but we just aren’t there yet. There is a lot going on behind the scenes and we are all focused on making it happen. I’m not a particularly patient guy, so its been a challenge for me!” Shank said with a smile. “But we are committed to making it work and thats our goal with that program. In the meantime, our sports car side is strong and getting stronger and none of us can wait to get back to work at Barber.”
Next up on the 13-race GRAND-AM Rolex Series schedule will be the Porsche 250 on Saturday, March 31, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Pew and Negri will target a third consecutive podium finish at the track.