Birmingham: Michael Shank Racing race report

Michael Shank Racing continues double-top ten runs at Barber Playboy machine once again scores Suntrust "Improve your position" Award (Leeds, AL) 22 July 2007--Despite a hectic run of races through the hot summer season, Michael Shank Racing...

Michael Shank Racing continues double-top ten runs at Barber

Playboy machine once again scores Suntrust "Improve your position" Award

(Leeds, AL) 22 July 2007--Despite a hectic run of races through the hot summer season, Michael Shank Racing continues to put precious Rolex Sports Car Series championship points in the bank with both team Lexus-Riley entries. Sunday's Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park marked the third Rolex race in as many weekends for Michael Shank Racing, and the team once again responded with strong results as Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri finished sixth, just ahead of Ian James and John Pew in seventh.

The result is the third consecutive double top ten finish for the Columbus, Ohio-based team, and the seventh consecutive top ten result for the Playboy-liveried Lexus of James and Pew.

"It's been busy for the team but everyone has responded perfectly, and the results have shown that," said team owner Mike Shank. "We didn't have the outright pace that we were hoping to here today, but we got some great drives out of all our guys and our strategy worked out at the finish. The pit stops are critical in these races and we had good driver changes with both cars."

Mark Patterson got a good start from eleventh to move up to ninth at the green flag in Alabama's hot and humid conditions.

"It was a really exciting start with a lot of bumping, but it was all clean, everyone jostling for position and just very busy in the first few corners," said Patterson. "My spotter Nick gave me a great call at the green flag and we got a good launch at the start. I'll say it was a pleasure to drive against Hurley Haywood in those opening laps. He's a real pro and it was just fabulous to race against him."

The Playboy machine also got off to a good start, settling into a race pace rhythm in the opening laps. But Pew's run was cut short when Tracy Krohn, who was returning to the pits to repair damage he sustained when he broadsided another car, cut a passing Pew off, sending him off course into the dirt and leaving green car parts lodged in the Playboy machines' nose cone.

"Tracy's going for the gentleman drivers award, but he didn't behave at all alike a gentleman there," said a frustrated Pew. "Usually when a car is damaged and heading back onto the pits, you don't drive down the middle of the track and put people off, but that's exactly what he did to me. There a lot of guys out there who are great to race with, who keep their head on their shoulders no matter what happens, but I'm afraid that might not be the case for everyone. It was a very frustrating way to start the race, but this team stayed completely focused and Ian did another amazing job right to the finish."

The incident with the odd-green machine helped to create a full course caution as both Pew and Patterson turned the cars over to James and Negri. The two rejoined out of the top-ten, but by the closing stages of the race, had battled their way up the order as the race came to a thrilling conclusion with both MSR entries moving up on the very last lap to finish sixth and seventh.

But Negri and birthday boy James both had to battle not only the competition, big heat, and humidity in their nearly two-hour long stints, but were also hampered by a pair of small problems in the cockpit. Negri's helmet blower didn't work, and James didn't have the benefit of an in-car water bottle.

"I had no fresh air to breathe in the car, and that was a big challenge for me because I was working so hard," said Negri. "We were not that great at the exit of the corners after the 23 car made contact with me trying to get back by, and that made me vulnerable at the end. I want to thank Mark-he is so supportive and not selfish at all. I'm really happy to get this result for him and it shows how strong this team really is."

James, who ran the KONI Challenge GS race earlier in the day, put all his Phoenix-based physical training to use to stay sharp despite the difficult conditions and circumstances as he battled to the last inch to keep moving the Playboy Lexus forward.

"The car was really good under braking, but we had a pretty big understeer so I just did the best I could," said James "It was pretty hot in there, and I think that's just about exactly as long as I'd want to be in that car without any water!"

Michael Shank Racing will be back in action in two weeks when the Rolex Series makes it Montreal debut at the Circuit Giles Villenueve in Montreal.

-credit: msr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ian James , Hurley Haywood , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Tracy Krohn , John Pew , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing