Michael Shank Racing continues top-tens at Barber (Birmingham, AL) 30 July 06--After a four-week break from race action, Michael Shank Racing took off right where the team left off in June by scoring the third consecutive double-top ten finish...
Michael Shank Racing continues top-tens at Barber
(Birmingham, AL) 30 July 06--After a four-week break from race action, Michael Shank Racing took off right where the team left off in June by scoring the third consecutive double-top ten finish for the Columbus, Ohio-based squad in Rolex Sports Car Series competition at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday.
Leading the MSR charge was Tommy Constantine and Mike Borkowski, who combined for a seventh-place finish in the Playboy Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus-powered Riley, with the sister team car of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri scoring ninth in the Flight Options Lexus-Riley combination. The result moved the Playboy Racing entry up to twelfth in the team championship order as the Flight Options entry strengthened its eighth place standing with the top-ten result.
"Lexus put a lot of man-hours and preparation to be ready for this race weekend with the new-specification motor, and it really paid off for us today because we got the mileage we needed to get to the finish today without having to make an extra stop," said team owner Mike Shank. "The support we get from Lexus and TRD is amazing, and to score another top ten with both cars is very satisfying given how incredibly competitive this series is."
Patterson and Constantine started from nineteenth and twenty-first respectively, and both drivers made quick work to move up and be running twelfth and thirteenth just one hour into the race. As a full course caution was called, the Flight Options crew called Patterson in for a driver change, new Hoosiers, and a full load of fuel. However, the timing was just off by a matter for twenty yards, meaning that Negri rejoined the field in sixteenth, one lap down.
The Playboy Racing/Mears Motor Coach squad employed a different strategy, waiting until the field packed up before bringing Constantine in for his stop, allowing Borkowski to rejoin on the lead lap in sixth position.
Negri fought through several re-starts before gaining his lap back to the leader as Borkowski ran in the lead pack in sixth, moving up to fifth as a full course caution regrouped the field with just minutes remaining in the race.
As the two hour and forty-five minute race entered its final stages, Negri moved up into ninth despite being as conservative with fuel as possible, as Borkowski also used every trick up his sleeve to make sure his Lexus had the fuel it needed to make it to the finish while still defending his position.
One final caution period once again set the stage for a dramatic finish, but on the restart, Borkowski was forced to relinquish positions in order to make it to the finish line, something that Negri only barely did, running out of fuel just after crossing the line.
"It was so frustrating not to be able to fight with those guys in the last few laps, but on the other hand it would have been pointless to have stopped and lose all those positions, so we'll take the top ten points and get ready for the Glen," said Borkowski. "Tommy (Constantine) did a fantastic job in his opening stint to put us in the position we were in. Everyone from Lexus and from the team has been working really hard, and it showed with our run in the lead pack today."
The Barber event marked Patterson's debut Daytona Prototype run at the facility, and the South African clearly enjoyed his competitive run through the field on the very busy and technical 2.3-mile natural terrain layout.
"That was fantastic," said Patterson. "I was really having a ball out there. The car was great and even though we didn't quite play the pit timing right, we were able to get another top ten and keep gathering points for this very competitive championship. That we were able to get our lap back and still run a one-stop strategy I think shows that Lexus has really done their homework and I am really looking forward to the Glen because we were on the podium there last year, and we feel like there's no reason we can't be again."
Brazilian hotshoe Negri had to balance his aggression with fuel savings as he played off of team engineer Dave Kanning's urgings on the radio, which worked to perfection as the Flight Options machine put in exactly the race distance before exhausting the fuel load.
"We just made it!" smiled Negri. "We of course want to be fighting for podiums and wins, but this is a team sport and you have to take the good with the bad, because you can't do anything without a great team behind you. We just made a bad call with the pit stop and lost the lap, but fortunately we were able to make up some ground late in the race and get back into the top ten. It's a solid finish, but we'll be looking to do even better at Watkins Glen in a couple of weeks."
The Barber race weekend kicks off a flurry of Rolex events as the series rushes to its' conclusion on Labor Day weekend, but not before a visit to Watkins Glen for a Daytona Prototype-only 200 mile sprint race in conjunction with the NASCAR Nextel Cup event, and then back West for the Series debut event at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, California.