Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian
Michael Shank Racing Finishes Third in New Jersey on Mothers Day
-3rd podium finish of 2012 for Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian (Win/3rd Rolex 24 at Daytona)
-2nd podium finish (Win, 2008) at New Jersey Motorsports Park
-Team now 3rd in unofficial points standings
-Ozz Negri has scored at least one podium in every GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season since 2004
Millville, N.J. (13 May 2012) – Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian overcame a series of setbacks to finish third in the Global Barter 250 with drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Mother’s Day. The result moves the team to third in the provisional points standings with four rounds of the 13-race GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championship now complete.
Pew opened the day from seventh on the grid and once again had an outstanding opening stint, slotting into the sixth position on the start with the No. 60 Liveon.com Ford-Riley. Fighting a fleet of pro drivers ahead and behind him, Pew’s lap times looked little different from theirs as the lead pack worked through a fast and furious caution-free pace. Pew moved up to run fifth while seamlessly maneuvering through the slower GT traffic before pitting on the 40th lap.
While the team had been cheering Pew on and was impressed with the data coming across the scoring screens, the two-time Pro-Am Champion wasn’t quite as sure about his performance.
“I came in and I thought that we were way behind, as the tires had gone off pretty considerably by the end of the stint and I really didn’t think my times were that good,” said Pew of the opening stint. “But it turns out that I was running the same pace as the leaders more or less as everyone was having the same problem and I was doing much better than I thought I had!”
The strong effort was similar to his opening stint at Barber Motorsports Park, where he played the pace and tire degradation balance just right, moving up late in his stint as his competitors over-used their tires.
“John did another great job in his first stint-that’s what really put us in position to race for a podium today,” said team owner Mike Shank. “He’s just come on so strong, it’s amazing to me. He’s been so smart with these Continental Tires and even though we suffer with having less downforce than the Chevys, he was still able to not only make the tire work over the whole stint, but his times were right there the entire time through an all-green flag run. One of his best drives yet.”
Negri took over the controls and returned in fifth place. But it was soon clear he had a problem, as the radio was not functioning properly and he could not hear the team. The experienced racer didn’t panic, though, keeping to the team’s pre-race pit strategy by keeping track of the time on his personal watch and counting down the laps. Coming into the pits right on cue with spotter Chris Wheeler alerting the team to be ready, Negri was able to get his final set of Continental Tires and fuel to the finish, although a quick stall slowed his return to the track.
An outstanding battle among six Daytona Prototypes ensued, with the cut and thrust ultimately costing two teams a DNF while Negri moved ever closer to the front. After securing second place, Negri lost out to the ultimate race winner in a bang and barge maneuver that didn’t make the Rolex 24 Champion happy.
“I thought I was moved out of the way,” said Negri. “I didn’t think I was passed fair and square. But we had a good car and the team did a good job. Everybody worked hard but it is what it is. It was a tough day. I didn’t have the radio so I had to think a lot about what was going on and it was tough with traffic. The team did a great job to put me ahead in track position. It gets pretty hard to drive towards the middle stint and towards the end and I really hope that GRAND-AM looks at what we need to compete on the same field as the Corvettes. We work to be on the podium each time out. That’s where we want to be. We actually want to be a little further forward. That’s what we wake up in the morning going for - to get as high up as we can. And doing what we love doing.”
The podium finish marked a welcome turn in lady luck for the team, which despite having a very fast Ford-Riley every weekend had suffered in the points after starting the year off with a victory.
The team will look to continue that kind of performance as GRAND-AM is set to visit Detroit for the first time in series history for the Grand Prix June 1-2.
“It’s exciting for the series to be going to a new market and hopefully this is a successful event,” said Shank. “It has been a long time since we’ve raced on the streets so we are looking forward to it, and of course having so many of our friends from Ford so close by, it should be a great weekend, especially coming in with some podium momentum like this.”