Pataskala, Ohio (19 June 2012) – Looking to build momentum as the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series reaches the ½-way point of the 2012 season, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian returns to historic Road America for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 Driven by VISITFLORIDA.COM and Round 7 of the championship this weekend.
Drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri look to rebound from a disappointing event at the team’s home track of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course two weeks ago which saw the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley knocked out of contention on the very first lap. The Shank squad rallied back for an eighth place result but hopes to turn their luck around as the team travels north to the prestigious Wisconsin road course.
The legendary 4.048-mile circuit ranks as many drivers’ favorite, including Rolex 24 At Daytona winner John Pew, who posted his career-best GRAND-AM start at the track last year when he qualified the No. 60 machine fifth on the grid when the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes made their debut at the track in last year’s event. He and Negri went on to finish fifth in the 2-hour sprint event – claiming one of five top-five results the team earned last year.
With two podium finishes throughout the first half of the season (Rolex 24 victory, Third at New Jersey) the team would like nothing more than to kick off the second half with a podium return. And Road America may be just the place to do that with both the team and drivers each having varied experience at the facility. Michael Shank Racing competed at the Wisconsin venue frequently in formula car competition before moving to GRAND-AM full time in 2004.
“I’ve got a lot of laps at Road America from my days racing in the SCCA and Atlantics,” said team owner Mike Shank, who turned in his helmet to focus on team ownership after finding success in Formula Atlantic. “We’ve always loved going to Road America through the years. The track is awesome and the fans are just unbelievable. It’s a great event, and I think it will be another big show with NASCAR there this weekend so we are happy to be there and to be a part of it.”
Pew raced formula car machines against the likes of IndyCar racers Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, and Raphael Matos on his way to the Masters Championship in Star Mazda, while Negri had experience at the track in his role as test driver for Formula BMW and the Barber Dodge Pro Series.
“It is a beautiful place to race, and there are some sections that are just my favorite of anywhere in the world, so I’m very much looking forward to the weekend,” said Pew. “It is going to be very important to avoid traffic in qualifying, because with a lap this long, you will only have a few chances to get it right in the session. There are some places like the long run into turn five where traffic won’t be an issue, and then some places where you will have to get your timing just right, especially with the GTs. I’m very excited to get back in the car and get going.”
“Every lap, there is just so much going on with some very, very fast sections and then some much slower corners that will hopefully be good passing opportunities,” echoed Negri. “The result at Mid-Ohio was not what we wanted at all but we did what we always do and worked hard to finish and now we are focused forward. We have been working very hard to get our car better, to get quicker, get closer to the Corvettes. I don’t know what GRAND-AM is going to do to make it equal, but it’s clear there is a problem. So we’ll just work very hard and do the absolute best job that we can.”
After opening the year with the Rolex 24 victory, Pew and Negri have continued to show strong pace behind the wheel of the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley despite the disadvantage of racing against the higher downforce Corvette machines. The team has earned one victory, two podiums, and has finished every race this year with the No. 60 completing 99.5% of race laps.