Watkins Glen International
Michael Shank Racing Finishes 4th at Watkins Glen
Fighting through a rainy race start that morphed into dry conditions over the course of six hours of hard racing, Michael Shank Racing used a strong race pace with the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley and a piece of shrewd strategy late in the race to finish fourth in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen on Saturday for round six of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal championship.
Following a run to second place at Lime Rock Park for John Pew and Ozz Negri just six days prior, the race marks the second consecutive strong race result for Michael Shank Racing, which is now tied for fifth in the GRAND-AM Team Championship standings.
Just as he did at VIR, Pew opened the race in very challenging conditions as a steady rain tapered off and made for a different race track, every time by.
“It was a lot of fun in the rain. Going from really wet to the partial conditions was interesting. I actually was really enjoying that, trying to find time each lap and having the track come to us through the stint,” said Pew, who also picked up the award for the top Pro-Am driver in the post-race podium ceremonies as he looks to defend his 2010 championship in the category.
After Pew opened the race, Negri took over as the track continued to evolve into a fully dry condition before turning the car back over to Pew, who continued to run on the lead lap despite having a car that wasn’t perfect through the long green flag runs.
“In my second stint, the track had dried and was much more consistent, but the balance on the car just wasn’t what it had been earlier in the weekend,” said Pew. “I was getting a lot of push with the new nose and we just didn’t have the speed that we had earlier. But we stayed on the lead lap where we needed to be and I turned it over to Ozz, who did a great job in tough conditions once again.”
For Negri, taking the controls within a pair of pit stops to the finish seemed to set the stage as the team looked to use the speed they had shown all weekend (P2, P1, P1, P7 in practice and qualifying). But in addition to the field of GT and DP racers, Negri had some extra battling to do inside the cockpit.
“The (throttle) return spring broke again with two hours to go, so the throttle was sticking,” said Negri before debriefing with the engineers. “It was very hard. It wouldn’t down shift. By the end, the brakes were junk because I was dragging the brakes to deal with the throttle sticking. It made my life a little miserable. But we fought pretty hard. I was not going to give up the position late in the race, the team used great strategy to put me there, great job to Jeff and the boys. It’s some good points for us in the championship and we come out of here with a car that we can put on the trailer, get home, and get ready to go again in a few weeks.”
The fourth place finish confirmed a continued uptick in Michael Shank Racing results as the season heats up, but the team knows that there is more work to be done just yet.
“I’m really happy with another good result,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We were not as quick as we wanted to be and I think the Chevy guys have something figured out right now so we have to do some homework and see what we can come up with. But this weekend, we had another great drive from John (Pew) and I know Ozz was fighting with an issue in the car that held us back pace wise in the second half of the race. But hats off to the great strategy work from Jeff (Schaffner) and Dale (Wise) to get us up to fourth at the end. It’s not everything that we want, but we will take it today and look ahead to Elkhart.”