Michael Shank Racing Wins Again at Miller Motorsports Park; Closes out 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series Season with two wins in a row
(Tooele, UT) 20 September 2008- After making the commitment to upgrade to the new Daytona Prototype Riley design and making the move to Ford power prepared by Roush Yates Engines for the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season, Michael Shank Racing got a fast start to the year by putting both team cars on the front row of the Rolex 24 At Daytona grid.
On Saturday, just weeks after No. 60 Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri won the penultimate Rolex Series round at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Labor Day weekend, the team closed the season out on an even stronger note by winning the final Rolex race of 2008 as the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of John Pew, Ian James, and Raffa Matos scored a convincing win in the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park. The win marks the second Miller race victory in three years for Michael Shank Racing.
James opened the race up from eighth on the grid for the nearly seven-hour event, and got off to a top-ten race pace before turning the car over to Pew, who also kept the car in the top ten through his stint on the 4.468-mile track before turning the controls back over to James. The race deviated from plan, however, as James was then momentarily caught out with a spin as a sudden and comprehensive downpour enveloped the track nearly four hours into the race.
While he sat stranded for a moment, the sister No. 60 machine fell victim to the same slippery conditions and spun off directly into the path of the 6 machine.
Fortunately, the Englishman was able to continue back to the pits with just a modest bit of body damage before returning to battle and then pitting for the final driver hand off to Raffa Matos. The rain and contact meant that all the telemetry and data systems were not working properly, robbing Matos of nearly all information in the car. Despite that challenge, and a lack of radio communication, the recently crowned Indy Lights Champion worked his way forward up to fifth in the order in his first Daytona Prototype race.
For the second race running, the Michael Shank Racing crew delivered an outstanding and race-making pit stop, but this time it was the Darin Pigg-led No. 6 car crew's time to shine. The final refuel and tire change saw Matos leave the pits in the lead with 28 laps remaining. On the ensuing restart, Matos held the lead and then assumed control, growing his gap over the field to nearly 30 seconds at the finish as Michael Shank Racing made it two in a row to close out the 2008 season.
"I'm so proud of this team to finish the season like this with wins for both cars, and to have the pit stops be so important shows how vital great teamwork is," said team owner Mike Shank. "Ian did a great job in some really tough conditions, and John kept the car in contention exactly where we needed it to be through the middle stages of the race. And then Raffa just took control of this race--I can't say enough about the job he did. We showed how fast we were right off the bat this year at Daytona and we've been strong all season long, but it took until now to get our guys on the top like this. This is a great way to close out the year. We're going to celebrate a little bit tonight, but the 2009 season starts tomorrow for us, and we are really looking forward to coming back next year even stronger."
The Miller event marked the final race of the first full season of Rolex competition for Pew, who also collected the Trueman honors for the race outing.
"We thought this was going to happen quite a while ago with the strong run we had going at Daytona to start the season, but we had to wait until now to get the win," said Pew. "Michael Shank Racing is an amazing team, and the crew did a fantastic job to get Raffa out in front and then he just did a great job from there to pull out the lead that he did. This is the best possible way to close the year out, and I couldn't be happier for the team."
"It's just brilliant to be up here on the top of the podium," said James, who has now won in every current class of Grand-Am competition with the Daytona Prototype victory. "I thought it was going to be a long day because the car wasn't great early in the race and then when we spun off, I thought it was over. But the conditions changed for us and the car just came to life, so even though we lost some bodywork, I think the car got better! We've been knocking on the door for this all season long, so to win the final race of the season is just fantastic."
"Mike Shank Racing did a phenomenal job," said Matos, who opened the 2008 season with a GT Class win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. "Ian James and John Pew were fantastic and then the guys did such a great job with the pit stop to put me in the lead, and then I was able to put a gap on everybody. The car had a great balance and got better as the race went on. I just want to thank Mike Shank Racing and Ford and Pirelli for all the support, and this is such a happy moment for everyone in this program, it's a great way to finish the season."
Mark Patterson was quick to offer his congratulations to JC France for winning the 2008 Jim Trueman Award after the sister No. 60 of Mark Patterson, Oswaldo Negri, and Ryan Dalziel posted the fifth quickest time of the morning practice session and then ran as high as third before an oil pressure warning forced the team to retire from the event.
"It was great to have it all come down to the final round with JC, and my hat's off to the Brumos guys, they've had a great season and I don't doubt that they will be in victory lane soon enough," said Patterson. "It was a shame not to be able finish this race with Ozz and Ryan, but it was fantastic to see John take his first win with Ian and Raffa so congratulations to them for this tremendous result."