Michael Shank Racing Ready to Defend Miller Race Wins (Columbus, OH) 16 September- To get a good idea of why Michael Shank Racing is looking forward to this Saturday's Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park, one only need take a look at the team ...
Michael Shank Racing Ready to Defend Miller Race Wins
(Columbus, OH) 16 September- To get a good idea of why Michael Shank Racing is looking forward to this Saturday's Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park, one only need take a look at the team trophy case.
With two Rolex Sports Car Series race wins in three years at the 4.4-mile, 24-turn course, it is natural to look at Michael Shank Racing as the team to beat this weekend.
The team's strong performance at the track in 2006 saw Michael Shank Racing take a dramatic breakthrough race victory in the desert night as fast pit work leapfrogged Negri up front to run an Ironman's stint to the finish and score the win with Mark Patterson as the team helped secure the motor manufacturers championship while Patterson also netted the Jim Trueman Award honors.
After scoring a top ten in the 2007 event Michael Shank Racing returned in 2008 with a win firmly on their minds. The Patterson+Negri duo were optimistic, fresh from a win in New Jersey, but it was sister No. 6 entry that became the star of the show last year.
The nine-hour race distance in the 2006 event was trimmed to seven for 2008, but the team once again combined great pit work and flawless driving as John Pew, Ian James, and Raffa Matos made it two-for-three for Michael Shank Racing at Miller Motorsports Park with a huge victory in the No. 6 Ford-Riley.
The event has been further trimmed to a race distance of two hours and forty-five minutes this year, but despite the change, the team will look to make the most of the opportunity to once again emerge victorious in this penultimate round of Rolex competition as Patterson and Negri will once again team in the No. 60, as Pew and Michael Valiante share the No. 6.
With podiums and wins in several of the Rolex Sports Car Series long-distance events, Michael Shank Racing has shown well in the long races through the years. But as the sprint event win in New Jersey last year and the VIR and Barber Motorsports Park podiums this season have shown, the team can also score well in the short race format as well.
"We've traditionally excelled in the longer races and our record at Miller backs that up, but we are still optimistic about our chances this year," said team owner Mike Shank. "Our guys are quick-on both sides of the pit wall-and that could be the difference once again. We've had a lot of good days at Miller and it's going to be key for us to have one again as we want to close the year off with some strong results, just like we did last year."
The trip out to Utah sees Pew carrying the defending race winner duties, something that he is relishing as he looks to return to podium-winning form again on Saturday.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to Miller and especially to qualifying," said Pew, who will be making his first qualifying run at Miller despite having two starts to his credit on the track. "This was the first place I ever drove a Daytona Prototype-testing with Michael Shank Racing, and so it was a special place for me even before getting the win last year. Hopefully I can qualify well and turn the car over to Michael Valiante in a good position and he can just do what he does best--get us back up on the podium. I'm really looking forward to it."
While consistently showing remarkable pace in session after session, the No. 60 team has suffered from some setbacks through the season as Patterson and Negri look to make the most of the two final races of the season.
"The long-distance events can really help the pro-am teams like ours, and with the race now being under three hours, it is quite a challenge for me to deliver the car to Ozz in a race-winning spot," said Patterson when interviewed this week on Grand-Am's weekly radio show. "Although with the race distance being 45 longer than the last two events that we've run, at least that opens a few more options to the engineers in terms of the race strategy. But we know this track well, we've done well there, and we are very optimistic heading into the weekend."
"We've had good luck and back luck through the years, but the 60 car has had a very high dosage of bad luck, not really on the mechanical side but just out on track, this year," said Patterson. "We've been hit by others on a number of occasions, and we've also made a mistake or two ourselves. So hopefully we are way overdue for some good luck this weekend! It is fantastic that the (Pew and Valiante) six car is doing so well and hopefully they also have a great weekend. For Ozz and I, our focus is on making the most of the next two races to see how much ground we can make up, as we want to be a little bit further up than ninth in the points."