Tough Day for Michael Shank Racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park
Fast from start to finish as Valiante posts fastest lap of the race on final lap of the weekend
(Millville, NJ) 3 May 2009-Michael Shank Racing's return to New Jersey Motorsports Park made for a disappointing visit for the defending race-winning team on Sunday, as the Verizon 250 didn't go according to plan for the team in round 3 of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series championship.
The No. 6 Ford-Riley of John Pew and Michael Valiante finished the race 8th, with the No. 60 of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri taking the checkered flag an unlucky 13th at the finish.
The race results were all the more disappointing given the remarkable pace shown all weekend long, as the team led the time sheets in several practice sessions with both Daytona Prototype entries leading up to the race. That fact was underscored as Valiante posted the fastest lap of the race on the final lap of the event with a 1:27.355-second tour of the 2.25-mile wet facility.
"This is the second race in a row that we've had two cars that could win the race, but circumstances just didn't play out our way today," said team owner Mike Shank. "It's disappointing, but at least we are coming out of here with the cars in one piece and now we'll head straight home, get the cars stripped down, race-prepared, and then be ready to head out to Laguna Seca by Friday."
The two-hour and forty-five minute event took the green flag in high-precipitation and low-visibility conditions, which immediately had an effect on the race outcome. Heading into the first corner, Patterson arrived with the field carrying much less speed into the corner than he did as he made contact with another car.
"At the start, I passed the 77 car and Darren (Law), and I should have just left it at that and tucked in, but then the 13 car braked a lot more than I expected and we had contact," said Patterson, who won the 2008 race at New Jersey Motorsports Park. "It's not his fault. I should have backed out earlier. You could just not see anything out there and it was my mistake. Hopefully we can get the car back out for some points."
The team did exactly that, rallying to return the machine in time to allow both Patterson and Negri to log enough time to score points according to the Grand-Am rules, with Negri taking the machine to the finish in 13th.
The sister No. 6 got off to a better start, as Pew avoided any issues in the opening laps and moved up to run into the top five before turning the car over to Valiante.
"You can't see anything out there," said Pew. "It was a complete white-out. Thank God for (spotter) Barry Waddell. He was calling everything for me. I couldn't even see the brake markers out there. I was just saving the car from spinning the whole time. It was a big challenge today."
Unfortunately, the duo's ambition for a Rolex Series second podium in as many weekends was thwarted by a wheel nut problem, which forced the car to make a long pit stop, and then return to the pits a subsequent time. The setbacks saw Valiante forced to finish 8th despite the prodigious pace shown by the No. 6, as illustrated by his fast lap time on the final lap of the race.
"I really couldn't believe how hard it was to see out there," said Valiante. "We had the problem with the wheel nut and that cost us. The car was hard to drive leading up to that, with the vibration. But once I came in and it was fixed, the car was awesome. It's a shame to have such a quick car and to not get to do more with it."
Michael Shank Racing will get the chance to do more with both fast Daytona Prototypes in two weeks as the series heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Oswaldo Negri set the track record and won the pole position at the track in his first start with Mark Patterson in 2005.