Defending winner Valiante will be joined by Allmendinger, Negri, Hunter-Reay
(Columbus, OH) 11 December 2008- With the Rolex 24 At Daytona still over a month away from taking the green flag, it can be a long winter for restless racers.
But on Thursday night, several Michael Shank Racing drivers will get a chance to keep sharp while also scoring some bragging rights as some of the biggest names in the sport face off in a karting spectacular. The 3rd Annual All-Stars Karting Classic at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, is a featured event as part of the 21st annual Performance Racing Industry trade show. The one-night race off has quickly become a "must-do" for a wide spectrum of racers, from Indianapolis 500 Champions to former Formula 1 racers.
So it comes as no surprise that Michael Shank Racing, which closed the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season out with two wins in a row, will be well-represented in the event.
Full-season Michael Shank Racing drivers Oswaldo Negri and Michael Valiante are both entered. For Negri and his Kart Mini squad, the event marks his first appearance in the PRI race, which is staged just outside the confines of the Orange County Convention Center. The setting and the race format is a marked difference from Negri's most recent karting experience running in the famed Granja 500 endurance kart race he ran recently in his native Brazil.
"I'm not really sure what to expect, but I think it's going to be a little crazy with so many guys on this track at the same time," said Negri, who set the Daytona Prototype track record at Daytona with his pole-winning effort for the 2008 Rolex 24. "I think it's going to be tough, but it should also be a lot of fun. It's a little like the Rolex 24, with all these guys from different parts of the sport racing each other really hard."
While Negri is looking to see what this event is all about, his fellow Michael Shank Racing pilot Valiante has a different goal-to defend his title from last year's event.
"I am really looking forward to competing at the PRI show again," said Valiante, who still keeps an active involvement in the karting world through Italian Motors. "It was very competitive last year and I had a lot of fun. The race is becoming more and more popular so I will have my hands full defending the title!"
AJ Allmendinger, who was part of Michael Shank Racing's run to second overall in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2006 and was a fellow front-row qualifier with Negri in the 2008 event, is entered as well. While the last time he ran in a kart was in this event last year, he's hoping that by teaming with long-time friend Donald Durbin of Cambrian Karts as his mechanic, that he'll be able to post another strong result, having scored 4th in the race last year.
"It is getting to be a tougher event every year, and with me not having been in a kart since last year, we'll see how it goes!" said Allmendinger, who established himself as a young karting pheonom before moving into the open wheel ranks. "I think working with Don is going to be a big help. It's just one of those races that you really want to walk away from as the winner. It's all about bragging rights-no money or any of that. And I can't wait."
Both Allmendinger and Hunter-Reay have been confirmed to test with Michael Shank Racing at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway
"I grew up karting, like many of the other drivers, and still to this day I have two karts, and it's my main off-season training program," said Hunter-Reay, who won the IRL race at Watkins Glen. "It's just something that I love to do, so if there's a kart race and guys who I race against in the regular season are going to be racing in it, I want to be racing against them. And they have drivers from other types of series so it's something I've been wanting to do for a couple years now."
Michael Shank Racing will be back in action just after the New Year, as Grand-Am has moved the traditional Test Days at Daytona to January 3-5.