Pataskala, Ohio – From the Rolex 24 to the Record Run, 2013 started and ended at Daytona International Speedway for Michael Shank Racing. The 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series closed out an era, and the final GRAND-AM season proved to be a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Michael Shank Racing (MSR) as the team enjoyed multiple highs as well as a few lows throughout the year.
The Rolex Series made its debut at the new Formula 1-grade Circuit of the Americas for the second round of the year and the team welcomed a new face as former F1 pilot Antonio Pizzonia joined Yacaman in the No. 6 Ford-Riley. The new driving pair finished seventh in the event while the No. 60 entry of Pew and Negri faced frustration when contact took the group out of contention and the team was forced to watch from the sidelines.
MSR made the team’s 200th Rolex Series start in the third round at Barber Motorsports Park. The organization welcomed back Valiante who shared driving duties with Pew in the No. 60 machine. Full-time MSR pilot Negri was forced to sit out three rounds of competition as he recovered from a leg injury sustained during off-season training.
The fourth round of Rolex Series competition marked another new venue for MSR as GRAND-AM debuted at Road Atlanta. Yacaman and Pizzonia delivered a strong performance in the No. 6 Ford-Riley – running as high as third before taking their best finish to date of fourth. Valiante and Pew combined for a run to seventh.
The Detroit Grand Prix held through the streets of Belle Isle Park did not pan out as MSR had been hoping when the No. 60 Ford-Riley of Pew and Valiante sustained significant race-ending damage on the opening lap when Pew was unable to avoid an incident directly ahead of him through the narrow confines of the street circuit. Yacaman and Pizzonia battled back from a challenging start of the race to finish the two-hour sprint event seventh.
Following the disappointing Detroit round, MSR worked hard to get both cars race-ready for the team’s home race of Mid-Ohio held just two weeks later. The Ohio organization had targeted a big result as the team not only welcomed back Negri to the No. 60 but also new Ohio-based sponsor Roberts Electrical Company. Negri staged a huge comeback in his first race back with the team since the Barber round.
MSR also welcomed Dunn Tire as a new sponsor of the No. 60 Ford-Riley at the Glen and the team almost claimed victory in the prestigious race as Negri ran second and challenged for the lead in the closing laps. Unfortunately, a momentary spin by the lead car forced Negri into the grass to avoid contact which saw the No. 60 forced to make an extra pit stop to clear grass from the radiator.
The moment cut short a storybook day and saw MSR come home with its sixth fourth place finish in the Glen 6 Hour event. Wilson and Yacaman held strong through six hours of hard racing in a mix of wet and dry conditions to take sixth at the finish.
Next on the schedule was the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and MSR was hoping to kiss the famed IMS bricks as Allmendinger returned to the team and joined Yacaman for the three-hour endurance race. The weekend started out strongly, as Yacaman delivered his best qualifying effort of the year and started third on the grid.
The MSR crew performed quick pit stops and raced within the top-five for most of the event, but the results did not pan out for either entry with the No. 60 finishing seventh and the No. 6 finishing 10th.
Historic Road America marked Round 9 of the championship and MSR looked to once again step up to the podium at the legendary Wisconsin road course after having placed third at the track in 2012. But despite a strong effort, the team didn’t find the edge needed to score a big result with the No. 60 and No. 6 taking fifth and sixth, respectively.
Kansas Speedway was the third of three new tracks added to the 2013 schedule and the race through darkness under the lights brought some competitive racing. Yacaman scored his best qualifying position of the year with a second place starting spot and the young Colombian driver led for 44 laps before turning the car over to co-driver Justin Wilson, who had joined the team for the final four rounds of competition. Unfortunately, the podium-promising run was cut short after multiple incidents with competitors caused enough damage to the No. 6 machine that the car was unable to finish.
Meanwhile, the No. 60 Ford-Riley of Pew and Negri came back to take the team’s second podium of the year with a third place finish. The result was all the more remarkable for MSR as the car had sustained substantial damage in practice the day before.
MSR brought home a double top-10 finish at Laguna Seca with the No. 60 entry sporting a new “retro” look as team partner AERO provided a sleek orange design for the final two rounds.
The season-finale event was held at Lime Rock Park and as the GRAND-AM Series came to a close, MSR used the final round as an opportunity to thank the team’s many loyal fans by displaying over 200 fan names on the No. 60. Pew and Negri drove the “MSR Fan Car” to a sixth place finish as the team celebrated nine consecutive years of GRAND-AM competition. Yacaman and Wilson, who both took their first-ever laps at Lime Rock Park during the weekend, combined for a run to second place and delivered MSR’s third podium of the year – closing out the season in the same way that the team opened it by securing a spot on the podium.
Although the 2013 season was over, MSR was not yet done for the year as the organization still had one more goal to accomplish. Together with Ford, Continental Tire, and driver Colin Braun, MSR set a new record with the team’s Ford-powered Ecoboost Riley. The combination set the fastest lap ever recorded on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval with a speed of 222.971 mph. Braun also set new world speed records for 10 kilometers from a standing start and 10 miles from a standing start. Braun’s 10-kilometer speed was 202.438 mph and the 10-mile speed was 210.018 mph.
As the GRAND-AM chapter closes and the new United SportsCar Championship chapter opens, Michael Shank Racing looks forward to announcing the team’s plans for the future in the coming weeks.
Michael Shank Racing