Watkins Glen, NY (1 July 2012) - After showing strong pace in the opening stages of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian overcame a pair of setbacks and raced forward through a long green flag period to bring home a sixth place finish with John Pew and Ozz Negri sharing the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday. The six-hour event marked round eight of the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Championship as well as the penultimate round of the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com.
Pew opened the six-hour race from the eighth position and delivered another stellar--arguably his best yet-- performance behind the wheel of the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley as he clicked off lap times equivalent to those of the leaders during his stint, making the most of the new Continental Tire being utilized at the Glen. Staying in the car through the opening Lap 16 pit stop, Pew worked his way up to fourth in the order.
But those strong efforts were not rewarded when Pew got squeezed off track as he continued to hold off the advances of Formula 1 and IndyCar veteran Sebastian Bourdais as they worked through a throng of GT traffic. Unfortunately, a Porsche GT entry either didn’t see Pew coming, or didn’t care, closing the door on him at the high-speed entry to the Bus Stop, forcing Pew to pinch the corner and spin off track in avoidance.
Though the car was not damaged, it lost power and the resulting long wait for a restart cost the team one lap to the leaders.
“I was very disappointed with what happened in the Bus Stop,” said Pew. “Looking back at it I’m trying to think if I could have done something different. It’s hard to say. You know you have everyone behind you and they’re trying to go two-by-two, and it didn’t work. Unfortunately the car stalled when it spun and we couldn’t get it started again and we had to wait for the push. And that really hurt us quite a bit. But we did get back on the lead lap with some good strategy and Ozz did a hell of a job - the Ironman - he did some long stints and gave it all he had.”
Despite the hiccup, Michael Shank Racing’s strategy put a quick car to good use, eventually regaining their lap back as Negri returned to the track 30th overall. An impressive run during Negri’s 1.5-hour stint saw him climb back through the field to run in the front running mix of cars in sixth. Looking to continue moving forward after having made up over 30 seconds on the leader’s car, the MSR squad was once again dealt disappointment in the Bus Stop as Ozz made the most of a strong run up the hill and went side by side through the chicane with the No. 9, but the close quarters running saw Negri spinning off track briefly. He was able to refire and return to the pits to turn the car back over to Pew.
Pew, despite the frustrating end to his first stint, was once again showing great pace as the race worked towards the final stages on the 3.4-mile historic Watkins Glen circuit. Negri then retook the controls with just over two hours to go, and having worked so hard to make up a lap and then the huge gap to the leader, was looking to make the most of the final stages of the race.
A tardy pit release saw Negri lose a pair of positions, but a caution period gave new hope as the stage was set for a thrilling dash to the finish in front of a reported record-crowd on hand. With the top-eight DP machines running within seven seconds, Negri was hoping to move up late in the race but despite having a Ford-Riley that he felt was handling well and had good speed, was only able to make it up to sixth place before the clock ran out on the day.
“The team did a really good job - it’s funny how sometimes when you have a good car you don’t have the result that you think you will get,” said Negri. “The car was good, but unfortunately I stalled out of the pits and we lost a couple positions and I just had a bad deal with traffic. I tried to gauge my gap there and the 90 car had a bigger run and it was his line and I couldn’t do anything and I had to be smart and give the racing room he needed. The car was good, I was driving every lap like it was a qualifying lap - I promise you that. It’s just one of those deals. It’s tough. I’m pleased with the work that the team did and where we ended up with the car.”
The result means that Michael Shank Racing has ceded the team’s lead in the North American Endurance Championship, but will look for a strong close to the championship-within-a-championship in the final round at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Really tough day - there were so many highs and lows in it,” offered team owner Mike Shank. “The best thing is that no one gave up. We really dug for that whole three-hour long green flag run trying to unlap ourselves and get back the lost track position. But it was a tough deal. On the last pit stop we had a little trouble getting out of the pit box before that last restart. But everyone did a great job - John continues to amaze us, and Ozz made up so much ground on track, just a great effort. This wasn’t what we wanted but now we’ll just focus on both drove real well. ”
The team’s very busy summer--this was the fourth race in 29 days--continues as Michael Shank Racing will head home to the team headquarters to prepare for the open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend as the series readies for its highest profile debut in series history in the Kroger SuperWeekend on July 27.
Source: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian