Miami, Fla. (18 July 2013) – When Michael Shank Racing driver Ozz Negri is not at the wheel of a racecar, he can most often be found training as the dedicated athlete maintains a strong physical fitness regimen. The native Brazilian, who calls Miami home, has competed in several triathlons as well as the Ironman 70.3 – a grueling event which sees a 1.2-mile swim, a challenging 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.
He will be taking part in the Mack Cycle International Triathlon in Miami this weekend and though it may seem like just another race for the triathlete, the event marks a huge milestone for the Rolex Series driver having endured a long road to recovery after injuring his leg in an off-season training accident.
An avid mountain biker, Negri was out riding last December when he broke a bone in his right leg. It was a major setback for the Rolex Series driver with the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona event seemingly right around the corner. Having won the 2012 edition of the race, Negri was determined to race in the 51st running of the event. He sat out of January’s Daytona Test Days and worked hard to rest and rehabilitate his leg in preparation for the race at the end of the month.
I had set many goals for myself - I had to do that so it kept my mind straight and positive.
He had his cast removed just six days prior to the start of the Rolex 24 and though still healing with a noticeable limp, Negri completed a 50-minute stint. A usual right foot braker in the car, Negri was forced to left foot brake which is a big adjustment as any racecar driver will attest. His efforts were well-rewarded as the effort netted a podium finish of third in the prestigious event with his Michael Shank Racing co-drivers John Pew, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, and Marcos Ambrose.
Negri began serious rehabilitation of his leg the Monday following the Rolex 24 and that hard work appeared to pay off when he competed in Round 2 of the championship at Circuit of the Americas. But a setback in the recovery process prior to the Barber Motorsports Park round forced doctors to operate on his leg which meant that Negri would have to step out of his racecar and miss the next Rolex Series rounds which was perhaps the most painful part of it all.
“That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do — just the idea of not being able to be in the car was so tough," said Negri. "But my doctors agreed that surgery was best and I knew that it was professionally the right path to take in order to get back to 100%.”
Negri was forced to miss the following three Rolex Series races, but spent that time focused solely on his recovery so that he could come back to his racecar even stronger.
“I had set many goals for myself - I had to do that so it kept my mind straight and positive,” said Negri of his recovery. “During the operation time and rehab there were some big bumps in the road. If you are not careful and alert, it can drag you down, so I used everything I could as a reason to keep pushing hard and remain positive. It was not easy, especially when I was out of the racecar watching everybody else.”
His relentless efforts paid dividends when he returned to his Rolex Series family at Michael Shank Racing’s home track of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Negri staged a big comeback when he and Pew finished fourth in the race and would have celebrated together on the podium had it not been for a necessary late-race splash of fuel which saw Negri return to pit lane with just seven minutes to go.
“I picked up exactly where I left off before I broke my leg,” said Negri of his return. “In the last few races last year I ran upfront in all of them and could have won a few of them, we led at Indy, Laguna Seca and at Watkins Glen. We were running second at Montreal and in the off season testing we were always in the top-three. The fact that (engineers) Dale Wise and Jeff Schaffner worked hard on making the car better and they achieved it, helped a lot in my return to the car. I also had to thank my doctors - Jonathan Hersh, Matt Cooper, and Dr. Guillermo Valenzuela.”
Negri’s training has now returned much to what it was before the injury, aside from the running and mountain biking elements. Because he cannot yet run with his full body weight, he will participate in the relay version of the triathlon. Negri will begin the race with the 1/2–mile swim and 20–mile bike ride before handing off to his daughter’s friend, Carmen, who will complete the distance with a 6.2–mile run.
“I’m doing the relay because I can't run it yet,” offered Negri. “I have been working on it with Dr. Matt Cooper. I have been running on a Gravity Zero treadmill using 70% of my body weight. I started doing it with 48% so we’re getting there, but Carmen will do the running portion.”
“There are three triathlons in the Triathlon Triology,” said Negri. “I did two of them last year, and this year I am going to do what my condition permits. But my goal is to do the Escape to Miami Triathlon by myself later on in the year. At this point I’m not sure it will be possible, but if I don't set the goal I will never find out.”
Following Sunday’s triathlon, Negri will take little time to rest as he travels to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard Grand Prix (July 25-26) which marks Round 8 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.
Michael Shank Racing