The race weekend marks a return to a track that has set the stage for a pair of significant accomplishments for both of the Rolex 24 Champions.
Negri became the first-ever Daytona Prototype Pole Winner at MRLS when GRAND-AM debuted at the track in 2005. The facility is also the site of Pew’s first Daytona Prototype start with Michael Shank Racing in 2007 as this weekend marks his 73rd career start in the category.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since that first start with Michael Shank Racing!” remarked Pew, who in addition to the 24 triumph also has two GRAND-AM Pro-Am Championships to his credit. “Mike has built an incredible organization. Working with Ozz (Negri) and all the training we do has been so rewarding. This team never gives up and even though the last few rounds have ended not at all how we wanted them to, we’ve shown that we’ve got the speed to be there, but just need a little bit of luck and it’d be great to get that this weekend!”
As Michael Shank Racing returns to the West Coast for Round 12 of the 13-race championship, the group is ready to rebound after a series of unfortunate events have kept the team from capitalizing on its podium potential. The team looked poised for another podium finish in the previous round of Montreal three weeks ago, when the Shank squad made a bold call and a fuel strategy that banked on scoring a lap or two of yellow. Alas, the move saw the team contest the final stages in the race from second in the running, but the yellow never came and the team was forced to pit for fuel with just four minutes remaining in the race, ultimately finishing sixth.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a track where the team has seen success before including Negri’s record-establishing pole in 2005 and a podium finish of third for Negri and Mark Patterson driving the No. 60 machine in 2007. Michael Shank Racing has scored four top-fives at the 11-turn California road course and has led laps in three of the six GRAND-AM MRLS events.
Michael Shank Racing has remained busy throughout the three weeks since Montreal including staging a test at Putnam Park just outside of Indianapolis last week. Negri was on hand to coach as Rodin Younessi took his first laps in a Daytona Prototype.
“Racing at Laguna just makes the drivers smile,” said Negri, whose daughter Ana will be riding in the 2nd Annual Camp Boggy Creek Challenge Ride on Saturday. “We don’t know how the Rileys will be compared to the Corvettes but we’ve been working and working on this car, and it’s showed in the races. We’ve been in the lead or top three late in every race, but something has happened. But that’s racing. I’m very excited about being back at Laguna Seca and with the news of GRAND-AM and ALMS, this is a very exciting time for everyone in the sport.”
The Sports Car Merger announcement came as the team was preparing for the trip out west, and the news has the entire sport buzzing.
“This is an incredible development, and my hat is off to Jim France and Don Panoz for coming together to create a single sports car racing organization here in North America,” said Mike Shank, whose team won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona. “I can not tell you how excited I am not only for my organization, but for the sport in general. Obviously, there are a lot of questions to be answered about the schedule, the equipment, and the technical regulations. As a team owner, these are very important questions to be resolved. But there is always work to be done in racing, and just knowing that this sport is positioned for the future gives us a very positive outlook as we move forward.”
Source: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian