Daytona 24: Ford Racing Thursday report

Oswaldo Negri Jr. captured the pole for the 2008 Rolex Series 24-hour at Daytona in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley. Negri will co-drive the season's longest endurance race with Mark Patterson, Graham Rahal and Justin...

Oswaldo Negri Jr. captured the pole for the 2008 Rolex Series 24-hour at Daytona in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley. Negri will co-drive the season's longest endurance race with Mark Patterson, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson.

Oswaldo negri -- 60 -- Michael Shank Racing -- (Qualified 1st)

HOW MUCH DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU AND THE TEAM? "It's a fantastic way to start a relationship with Ford. I'm pretty sure it's as important to them as it is for us. This is the fruit of a lot of work. My engineer, together with Mike Shank Racing mechanics, they've worked non-stop since the last race of the season in Salt Lake. We had a good car, but we were always looking for something better and better and better. Many thanks to the Yates guys [Roush-Yates Engines], John Maddox, for giving us such a great, two [cars]. This is going to give us a little bragging rights for now, it's about 1/10th of what we need to do to win this race. It's a long race, but I'm just so honored and so happy to be here."

TALK ABOUT THE NEW TIRE PACKAGE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ON THE POLE FOR SUCH A LONG RACE AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS. "It's important because you are in front of the pack and it keeps you a little bit out of trouble if you know what I mean. The Pirelli's were like a huge plus for us, it suits my driving style very much. Since we did the change, we worked on the car, but immediately we found out that that is what I wanted and I can get it out of the car easier. Now regarding the race, we've been working really hard on the car on race mode and I'm glad we're on pole, but I think we have a strong car -- a strong racing car."

DISCUSSING TRACK CONDITIONS AND TRACK temperature. "We were pretty much looking at that all the time. At first we decided to change top gear and then suddenly we saw the wind shift and it got a little bit cooler, so we decided to leave the same top gear. We were monitoring it like every five minutes. Track was good, plenty of grip and good enough so that we can drive more than 100 percent and get 100 percent out of the car."

HOW DO YOU APPLY WINNING THE POLE TO THE RACE? WHAT IS THE BENEFIT TO BEING ON THE FRONT ROW? "I guess you're going to be the first one to be on T.V. and people will talk to you, but I can tell you I would trade, for sure, without thinking, my pole position for a race win on Sunday. That's what matters. Yeah, the pole is one lap that you have to connect and get everything together, but you gotta do a pretty good job for 24 hours and that is hard. There is a lot of things involved and I think we know what we've got to do. We've got the recipe and we've got the car and it's up to us now."

THERE ARE THREE FORDS IN THE TOP FIVE. HOW HAS THE CHANGE TO FORD AFFECTED THE TEAM? "It was a necessary change for us. We've been with Lexus before for many years and we decided that we needed some fresh air. We were very happy, I'm very close friends to those guys but it's a good situation. It's like what Pontiac had last year. Most of the top positions were always Pontiac, so now they have a little more competition."

A.J. Allmendinger returns to the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing lineup for the Rolex Series 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway. Allmendinger qualified second for the first race of the season and will co-drive the event with Burt Frisselle, Ian James and John Pew.

A.J. allmendinger -- 6 -- Michael Shank Racing -- (Qualified 2nd)

DURING THE TEST DAYS IT WAS TALKED ABOUT HOW WELL THE TEAM WORKS TOGETHER, AND THIS PROVES THAT. "It's something that comes down to just what Mike puts together, he puts together a great program. Everyone at Mike Shank Racing, the crew guys are awesome to work around and be around and I just love driving race cars and I love driving for Mike because he is just a pure racer. That's the attitude that you see throughout the whole camp that he puts there is just that we're here to win but we have fun. Everyone's laughing and smiling and it's a great place to be around. I just did tell Mike that we have a problem. Oz [Oswaldo Negri] and I have a bet who can lead lap one, so it's going to be ugly getting into turn one... I'm just kidding."

ON THE FIRST COUPLE HOURS OF THE RACE THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST YEAR. "It's a completely different situation. Last year we struggled in qualifying and I didn't do a great job to lay down a lap and I think we started like 11th. We kind of had to fight our way through the field and eventually we got the lead and had a pretty good stint for myself and the team and everything after that started happening. But like Oswaldo said, it's a long race and we'll get clean through in turn one and just be smart about it. It's a long race. We've got everything that we need to go out and win the race but it's a 24 hour race and there's a lot of luck that's involved. But you know that's the most important thing. We get to start up front and I think more than anything it's just great for Mike Shank and it shows all the hard work that the team has put in. I'm just fortunate to come here and get to do it for one race, but it's well deserving for the whole team."

Michael shank -- Team Owner, Michael Shank Racing -- (Qualified 1st and 2nd)

"We're going to celebrate this for about three minutes and then go back to work. If this was a sprint race, I'd be ecstatic. I'm very honored at this and how we qualified, but I want to win the race. I want to win the race. That's what we've been trying to do for five years and we're going to go back and do night practice here and celebrate for a little bit and that's it. We'll have strategy meetings with having two teams on the front row and go from there.

Dan Davis, director, Ford Racing Technology

"We're thrilled to have not one, but two Ford-powered Daytona Prototypes on the front row for the 24-hour race. Michael Shank Racing is in its first year with Ford and to have them start first and second is just awesome. We're proud of the showing that the Roush-Yates engines had today and look forward to the same result on Sunday. Mike and his team and the AIM Autosport group join Doran Racing as part of the Ford family in the Rolex Series, and it looks like we're off to a great start of the season."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Justin Wilson , Ian James , A.J. Allmendinger , Burt Frisselle , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , John Pew , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing