Gustavo Yacaman and Justin Wilson made Lime Rock Park look like home as the duo combined for a run to second place.
Lakeville, Conn. (28 September 2013) – Once again, Michael Shank Racing closed out the Rolex Sports Car Season season with a strong finish.
Despite never having even been to the track before, Gustavo Yacaman and Justin Wilson made Lime Rock Park look like home as the duo combined for a run to second place in the No. 6 AERO/Tuvacol Ford-Riley as GRAND-AM staged the final Rolex Sports Car Series race on Saturday.
The sister No. 60 “Fans of MSR” Ford-Riley of John Pew and Ozz Negri came home sixth as the team celebrated the close of its ninth consecutive season of GRAND-AM competition.
Wilson qualified the No. 6 AERO/Tuvacol car fourth on the grid, and moved up to second before the race reached its 50th lap through a furious pace of green flag running. A quick pit stop on lap 64 saw Yacaman return to the field in second position, moving to take the lead on lap 69 and holding the point until lap 104, when he pulled in for a pit stop with just over an hour left to run.
“I had a lot of pressure from behind between [Dane] Cameron, and [Scott] Pruett and I just couldn’t do anything to pull away,” said Yacaman. “I could make a gap in traffic, but alone, I didn’t have the pace that they had. I was just struggling a bit with the car with old tires. It was really, really tough, just barely hanging on. But I was happy to be able to hold Pruett off for as long as I did. He’s one of the most respected drivers in the series and it’s nice to be ahead of him and have a clean fight. He had a lot of goes at me, wasn’t able to pass me, and I was able to stay up front and get this podium for the guys.”
Yacaman’s season has grown steadily after several outings that saw the youngster attract the attention of the officials with his ambitious driving. But as he has learned more about the nuances of the sport every weekend and benefitted from the pairing with Wilson, the Lime Rock Park performance was a strong way for Yacaman to cap the season.
“The whole 6 crew on the MSR team really deserves it from having penalties, probation, the car burned down to the ground, and just being able to be here—last race of the year—and first race I ever finished in second place in GRAND-AM, ahead of Pruett and Cameron who are very well-known endurance drivers,” said Yacaman. “It’s pretty cool.”
“Gus did a great job, held on, and didn’t make a mistake,” said Wilson, who has kept a torrid pace through the season with his combined IndyCar and GRAND-AM schedule. “It’s just great for the whole team to hang on and get a podium in the last race of the season. It feels good. Everyone on the team has worked so hard all year and there’s always something that happens, and you just say, “Oh, we’ll come back next week.” But this time, we didn’t have any bad luck, and we just got a good package. The team’s worked hard on the setup, we’ve got a great engine in Ford, and it all came together finally.”
The sister No. 60, which carried the names of hundreds of Michael Shank Racing fans on the side of the Ford-Riley, opened from ninth on the grid after Pew qualified the car in the cold morning qualifying session. But the conditions were much different as the race dawned, with a brisk morning turning to downright warm temperatures--and a slippery racing surface to go with it.
“The car was good, but it started to get pretty loose,” said Pew, who after taking fuel on an early yellow flag ran a long stint deep into the race. “A little luck played our way at the end to move up a few spots, but it was tough half way through the stint when our rear tires started to go, but we had a good car. I’m happy with that--Ozz did another great job today. Congratulations to Justin and Gus--this team works so hard so it is great to see them come home with a strong finish.”
“We had the pace, we were catching everybody, keeping the leader behind,” said Negri. “Our car was better than most of the guys ahead of us, especially at the end of the stint, I could put the power down a lot better. I just went for it, every gap that I saw, because I knew that would be the only way of making up space. At the end of the day, I think that if we had a little better track position, we could have ended up on the podium. I could catch the guys whenever we had clear laps. It’s one of those things. We work hard at it, and John did a good job as always—kept on the lead lap, and kept everything in one piece, and now we’re just really working for making it happen for next year.”
“First off, I want to say a big thank you to all the people--our fans and our sponsors--for sticking with us this year, it has been a very tough season,” said team owner Mike Shank. “AERO, Roberts, Ford, Dunn Tire, Tuvacol, everyone who was involved in stepping up and helping us--thank you. It was a solid day for us, and I think Gus put it all together today to put everything he’s learned this year, holding off Pruett and getting up on the podium. Justin’s opening stint was a monster, and we got great track position thanks to that. We were fortunate to get a little bit of luck for Ozz after the yellow, but we didn’t have the laps to get John (Pew) back on this Lime Rock podium. I’m proud of my guys for the effort all year long, and I’m just ready to open the next chapter for my team.”
Michael Shank Racing will be announcing plans for the future soon. Stay tuned, and thank you for the support.
Michael Shank Racing