Montreal, Quebec – Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian was poised for a podium result in Saturday’s Montreal 200, but the promising run was cut short after a fuel strategy gamble didn’t pay off for the team.
John Pew opened the two-hour sprint event from eighth on the grid and delivered another strong performance behind the wheel of the No. 60 machine. An early full course caution just 13 minutes in to the race saw the Shank squad bring Pew to pit road for fuel only. When the field went back to green flag running, Pew battled for the fifth position as he went wheel to wheel with 2003 CART Champion Paul Tracy.
Ultimately surrendering the position after some close, hard racing, Pew ran sixth when the second full course caution was displayed with 40 minutes in the books, and he headed to pit road for a routine pit stop and driver change.
Negri took control of the No. 60 Ford-Riley and returned to the order sixth in line as the field got set for the restart. Negri showed strong pace throughout his stint as he clicked off clean and consistent lap times around the 2.709-mile road course.
With 45-minutes remaining in the race, several Daytona Prototypes began making their final pit stops, but the Shank group called for a different fuel strategy with hopes that another full course caution would play into their hands.
Negri moved up to second and looked poised for a podium finish in the Montreal 200 event, but unfortunately the hoped-for full course caution never came. Though Negri grew the gap over third place each lap as he led a pack of four cars in second for 25 laps, he would eventually be forced to pit for a splash of fuel with just four minutes to go.
The pit stop was lightning fast, but the time spent driving down pit lane was enough to lose the valuable track position the team had gained and Michael Shank Racing took sixth at the checkered flag.
“It was an awesome strategy, but unfortunately the lack of yellows didn’t fall in our favor today,” said team owner Mike Shank. “John had one of his better stints of the year and I’m really pleased with Ozz - he did everything we asked of him. We gambled. We were going to be P6 or we were going to be P6.
So we took a flyer and I think if we’d have had a yellow we would have been more than set. It’s disappointing, but it’s the happiest P6 I’ve ever had just because we struggled a little bit in practice and to be in a position like that at the end was good. We took a risk. But we just couldn’t save enough fuel and keep our position where we needed so we just went for it. Good strategy, good heads up call by everybody involved.”
“We probably came in a lap or two just a little bit too early but it was worth a shot,” echoed Pew. “I mean we were in a better spot than where we were when Ozz got in the car. It was worth the chance. We had a competitive car and I think we could have been right there but just didn’t get the break we needed. It was good to go for it, but just didn’t pay off.”
“This wasn’t the result we deserved after we made so much progress with the car this weekend and John really had a good stint--fighting really well and a good pace,” said Negri. “But I’m really proud of the team and glad that we took the risk as a group. It didn’t go the way we hoped, but it was the best chance we had today. On to Laguna!”
Michael Shank Racing will travel across the country to California in three weeks when the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series returns to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the penultimate round of the championship September 7-9
Source: Michael Shank Racing