With some great driving, speedy pit work and shrewd strategy from the pit box, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri scored their third GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series podium of the season with a run to third place in the Road America 200 on Saturday. The team won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and returned to the Rolex Series podium again with a run to third at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
When rain interrupted Friday’s qualifying session, the grid was set by championship order as Pew opened the 2-hour sprint race from fifth on the grid. The Shank squad took advantage of an early race caution just 11 minutes into the race to top off on fuel on a track that has seen fuel play a key strategy factor, particularly with the short two-hour race distance. Pew returned to the track ninth in the order following quick pit work by the Shank crew.
On the restart, Pew moved up to seventh and masterfully held position despite the constant advances of the No. 5 Corvette of David Donahue. Running quick and consistent lap times equivalent to those of the leaders, Pew ran fourth throughout most of his over an hour-long stint and moved up to second in the order before pitting to hand the No. 60 Liveon.com Ford-Riley over to Negri with 53 minutes remaining in the two-hour event.
“We were trying to run as little downforce as possible for straight line speed and that hurt us a little bit on the tires,” said Pew. “But overall it was a good car and some good racing. I had a good race with the 5 car back and forth a few times and that was a lot of fun, trading places in Canada corner. My teammate and crew did a great job and it’s great to be on the podium again.”
Negri returned to the track seventh in the order and moved up to the sixth position before pitting for fuel early in his stint for the team’s second stop of the day. Another great stop by the Shank group saw Negri hold on to sixth place as he re-entered the track for a long green flag run.
With 25 minutes to go, the race saw its second full course caution and Michael Shank Racing opted to bring the No. 60 machine back down pit road for a final stop for new Continental Tires, allowing Negri to unlock the full potential of the Ford-Riley combination in a dramatic final 12 minute shootout to the finish.
Negri made great work of the fresh tires as he restarted fifth and quickly moved up to third in just one lap.
“I’m really proud of the strategy the team had for this race-not just for getting the tires at the end, but our whole race,” said Negri. “Great job by the team and another really strong stint for John. We just keep fighting. We had to run with very little downforce to fight with the Corvettes, so we just had to make the most of our car and the strategy today.”
“John really did a great job,” said team owner Mike Shank. “I’m so happy for him, and how he’s progressing. The guys called a great race and strategically got us right up to the front and a couple things went our way and Ozz drove up toward the front. It was a very tough weekend. I think it just goes to prove that you if don’t give up, once again you can come to the top of this. It’s our third podium of the year and I’m happy about that. We’ve got the Glen next weekend and hopefully we can keep up the momentum in the points.”
The final lap saw drama unfold as the late race yellows saw some team’s fuel strategy pay dividends as Negri worked hard to keep third place at the checkered flag with a late race duel with the Detroit Grand Prix-winning Action Express car.
“He tried to pass me on the last corner, which he did and I gave him room,” said Negri. “He ran wide and I got a better exit shot and had much more momentum than he did. I was on the very edge of the track and there was nowhere for me to go and he kept coming and he was the one that touched me. It is just one of those things. He chose to take my piece of road and it ended up the way it did. But I’m glad we got a podium today and now we head to another great track - Watkins Glen for the 6 Hour, and we can’t wait.”
Source: Michael Shank Racing