Patterson and Pew confirm Trueman Award entry; Friendly intra-squad rivalry set for 2008
(Columbus, OH) 17 January 08-- Full-season Michael Shank Racing drivers John Pew and Mark Patterson confirmed their entry on Thursday as combatants for the 2008 Grand-Am Trueman Award in Rolex Sports Car Series competition. The award is a form of championship within a championship, and is awarded to the gentleman driver with the best race results, which are multiplied by the miles completed by the driver through the course of the season. In order to be eligible, drivers must not derive their main income from race driving.
Patterson will share driving duties in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley through the fourteen-round season with Oswaldo Negri and will be joined by Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Pew will co-drive the No 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley with Ian James, who won the 2004 ALMS P2 championship and scored a remarkable run of top-tens in his first season of Daytona Prototype competition in 2007. Pew and James will race with AJ Allmendinger and Burt Frisselle to open the 2008 season.
The Award is a handy score card for the two friends and rivals, who have raced each other in a variety of categories ranging from screaming Star Mazda wings and slicks open wheel cars to sharing a GT-class Rolex 24 At Daytona exploit years ago. While the Award is one they both would like to leave the season with, neither of the highly-driven competitors see it as the focus of their programs.
Patterson, who speaks with some level of authority on the topic having won the honor in 2006, is looking forward to a new chapter in his friendly rivalry with Pew. His first Daytona Prototype 24 Hour race, by coincidence, was co-piloting Darius Grala's No. 3 DP.
"It's a fun little friendly competition for us and I'm looking forward to John being in on it all year long," said Patterson. "We're tremendously optimistic about the level of competitiveness we are bringing this season and look forward not just to this inter-team rivalry, but also to going up against Tracy (Krohn) and Jim (Matthews) and their excellent co-drivers."
Pew, who won the 2005 Star Mazda Masters Championship, is also looking to get 2008 off to a fast start, as he scored his first Trueman Award medal (traditionally delivered to the highest finishing Trueman competitor in victory circle after each round) the last time he raced at Daytona in the Brumos Porsche 250. Pew hasn't made nearly the number of Daytona Prototype starts as Patterson yet, but has made quite an impression in his rookie Daytona Prototype season, with an enviable record of qualifying strongly and backing that up with excellent race pace.
"Mark was very much a reason for me not only to move into the Daytona Prototypes, but also to do so with Mike Shank," said Pew. "We feel like this Ford-Riley combination is going to be strong, all season long. We want nothing more than to start off well here in the 24 against everyone, not just the Trueman competitors. The rivalry makes it fun, but not too serious-- a good way for Mark and I to keep track of who should be bragging, and who is picking up dinner!"
Another reason for optimism beyond the promise of the new Roush-Yates Ford engines and the sleek new Riley bodywork is the new specification Pirelli tire, which has not only sped up the entire field, with practice times in testing comfortably two seconds faster than Daytona's track records, but it has also narrowed the sharp end of the time sheets as the Test Days saw twelve cars within one second on a track that's not quite four miles long.
Patterson and Pew have both found that the new tire allows them to exploit even more of the car's capabilities than they were able to before. And, the tire is staying in the sweet spot longer, further opening that performance window when consistent quick lap times are at a premium over merely nabbing one fast qualifying time.