COLUMBUS, Ohio (Mar. 2, 1999) -- Michael Shank Racing announced today that it has signed Masaoki Nagashima to drive in the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. A veteran of Japans Formula 3 Series and a competitor in eight events in the 1998...
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Mar. 2, 1999) -- Michael Shank Racing announced today that it has signed Masaoki Nagashima to drive in the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship.
A veteran of Japans Formula 3 Series and a competitor in eight events in the 1998 KOOL/ Toyota Atlantic Championship, Nagashima, 28, will pilot a MSR Swift 008.a co-sponsored by the Panasonic and DUSKIN corporations of Japan.
The Tokyo native is the second driver signed by MSR to compete in the 1999 KOOL/ Toyota Atlantic Championship, joining rookie Sam Hornish Jr., 19, of Defiance, Ohio, who committed to the team in early January. (An official announcement by MSR regarding a third driver and car is expected later this week.)
"We are extremely pleased to begin a relationship with Masaoki that will last through his Champ Car days," said MSR owner Michael Shank. "And with the extensive testing program that weve been able to run over the past several months, were confident that well be able to put him in a position to win races and contest for the series championship.
"We also are very proud to have the opportunity to represent Masaokis sponsors, Panasonic and DUSKIN, both of which have been tremendous supporters of American open-wheel racing for many years."
About joining the MSR team and racing full-time in the U.S., Masaoki Nagashima stated, "I would like to express my gratitude to my sponsors, Panasonic and DUSKIN, and to Hiro Matsushita (the first native of Japan to become a regular competitor in CART Championship Car events, 1990-98), who has given me so much support, enabling me to participate in this years KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship."
Nagashima continued, "In 1998 I had a great experience racing in both Formula 3 in Japan and the Atlantic series in the U.S., and I acquired invaluable knowledge about the difference between the wing car and the step-bottom car through these two race categories. As the Atlantic season progressed I got more accustomed to the type of racing, as well as the car and the different tracks. This year I am confident that I can race much more comfortably with the skills I obtained last year. I'm really looking forward to participating in all the Atlantic races this year and to a new life in U.S. Even the language barrier is something that I can overcome. Hiro Matsushita, who has always guided in the right direction when it comes to racing, will continue to support me to improve my driving skills. My aim is to someday be a champion, but my immediate goal is to place third or better in this years KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship final point standings."
On Nagashima's past and future in auto racing, Hiro Matsushita added, "This will be the first year for Nagashima to compete in all of the Atlantic races. Last year he ran in both Formula 3 races in Japan and Atlantic races in the U.S., enduring a strenuous race and travel schedule, and did not really have adequate time for race testing in the Atlantic series. Regardless, he lived up to my expectation in some races. I am thrilled and excited to have him join a prestigious team like Michael Shank Racing. I chose this team for Nagashima because of Mike Shank and the talented people that he has in his organization. I hope that Nagashima can concentrate 120 percent only on driving this year, always putting on the winning attitude. I hope that Nagashima can move up to CART and Champ Cars in the near future."
Michael Shank Racing is based in Columbus, Ohio, and competed in the 1998 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship with drivers Kenny Wilden and John Rutherford. The teams top 98 efforts included a win at Cleveland (its first in KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship competition) and third-place finishes at Toronto, Elkhart Lake and Laguna Seca -- all by Wilden.
The 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship season opens at Long Beach, Calif., on April 17.
Masaoki Nagashima -- Fast Facts
Birthdate: September 26, 1970 Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan Residence: Tokyo, Japan, and Los Angeles, California Height: 510 (179 cm) Weight: 154 lbs (70 kg) Education: Degree in Economics, Komazawa University
1998 Drove in All Japan Formula 3 Series (10 of 10 races) and the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship (8 of 13 races) in the United States. Top efforts in Formula 3 were eighth-place finishes at Tsukuba and Sugo. In the the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship his best results came at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio, where he finished eighth driving for Team PPI. His top qualifying effort in the Atlantic series was posted at the seasons final race in Houston, where he started third.
1997 Competed full-time in the All Japan Formula 3 Series, All Japan GT Championship, and All Japan N1 Endurance Race. Won the third race of the All Japan GT Championship at Sendai Speedway. Was selected to compete in series all-star race. Won the first two races of the N1 Endurance Race and challenged for the series championship before finishing second overall.
1996 Raced the Esso Challenge Formula Toyota Race (10 races) and West Japan Series (six races). Won his first Formula race from the poleat Sendai Speedway. In 16 races between the two series he claimed two victories, four seconds, two thirds, and three poles. Finished fourth and second, respectively, in the final point standings of each series. Also drove to victory in the Tokachi 24 Hour Endurance Race after qualifying fourth.
1995 Participated in the All Japan N1 Endurance Race (Civic Class), recording one pole position, two thirds and a fifth. Also drove in five Formula Toyota races and three All Japan GT Championship events.
1994 Finished fifth overall in the Suzuka Freshman Race (N2 class) driving a Corolla Levin. Top effort was a second-place.
1993 Drove in all eight races of the Civic One-Make Race (Tohoku Series), finishing seventh overall. Claimed his first career podium finish at Sogo Highland, where he qualified eighth and finished third.
1992 Made his racing debut in a Civic Race while attending college.