Michael Shank Racing finishes second in Rolex 24 At Daytona (Daytona Beach, FL) 29 January 06--Michael Shank Racing got the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season off to a strong start, taking second place...
Michael Shank Racing finishes second in Rolex 24 At Daytona
(Daytona Beach, FL) 29 January 06--Michael Shank Racing got the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season off to a strong start, taking second place in the 44th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday.
The podium result was the result of a strong driver line-up, a dedicated and well-prepared team, and a lot of hard work. Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson, A.J. Allmendinger, and Justin Wilson collaborated with the Michael Shank Racing crew to emerge from a twenty-four hour battle against sixty five other cars to bring the Flight Options Lexus-Riley across the finish line just four miles shy of the 2,613 miles covered by the winning Ganassi entry.
The team was never slated lower than sixth in the order each hour, and quickly overcame a pair of small mechanical setbacks in order to launch into second position in the season team championship points battle.
Negri started the car from fifth on the grid, and moved up to third in just three laps before tucking behind the sister MSR car in the lead to pace the field in the early stages of the race. Negri turned the car over to Wilson, who put the Flight Options machine back out front just before the 100th lap before himself turning the car over to Allmendinger, who moved the Lexus/Riley to the front again by lap 125. Patterson took control as the afternoon began to turn into night, and he kept the car firmly in the top three before the rotation began again.
The cycle of running in the lead pack was only interrupted twice during the long night and day.
A small rear suspension component problem forced Wilson to bring the ill-handling machine in for a quick fix early in the night and then just before sunrise, a problem with the steering rack meant that Patterson had to struggle with a machine that became difficult to steer, but he quickly diagnosed the problem and brought the car in for a fix from the crew as he turned the car over to Negri once again.
As the sun came up, the Flight Options machine battled for positions among the lead cars, securing second place for good with just over an hour to go with Allmendinger at the wheel. The young American then fought to bring the gap down to the leader, but ran out of time as the checkered flag fell just after noon on Sunday.
"I am so proud of this team and how hard everyone worked to get this result," said an exhausted but exuberant team owner Mike Shank. "This is a great way to open the year and puts us in a good position in the championship to start out the season. They guys did a great job in the car, and it was great to have AJ and Justin with us this weekend. Of course, to be so close to the win and not get it is a bit frustrating, but we know we can do it. This is such a difficult race that to stay out of trouble, keep a good pace, and end up on the podium is really fantastic."
Patterson has made quite a splash in the Rolex ranks since teaming up with MSR and Negri, as the two already have a pole and podium from just a handful of starts, but both are aiming for more.
"I'm really thrilled," said Patterson. "This team is so well prepared, and it showed when we had two small problems that stayed just that-small problems, and we were able to get back on track right away and keep getting the laps in. This was a fantastic and humbling experience for me to be teamed up with drivers of this caliber, and to come away with a second place in the biggest race of the season. Now, we just need to go win one of these things."
Patterson will be teaming with Negri for the full Rolex season, and are sure to be a consistent threat this year.
"I am so happy for this team, for Mike Shank and for Mark Patterson," said Negri. "Everything went almost perfectly, and to come so close to winning this race I think really gives us a lot of confidence looking to the rest of the season. To be racing with this team and with Mark is an opportunity that I am very thankful for, and I just can't wait to get the rest of the season going."
The Rolex event was the first for both Allmendinger and Wilson, and the RuSPORT duo seem to have found a new target for their already impressive racing resumes.
"It's great to come here and be able to compete," said Wilson. "There were a lot of fast cars here, the racing was close and everyone was going for it in the early stages. Other teams had their problems, but MSR gave us a fast car and it ran faultlessly. I had a couple of close shaves in traffic, including a Porsche that spun in front of me, but other than that it was just a case of putting in the lap times and taking care of the car. It's a fine achievement for the team, and I'd certainly love to come back again next year and do one better."
"I was really impressed with Mike Shank and his team-they have the same total devotion to winning that RuSPORT does, and obviously they know a lot about how to prepare and run in these 24 hour races," said Allmendinger. "This was a great way to get the season started for me and Justin, and hopefully we can come back again next year and go one better."
The team will be back in racing action on the weekend of March 2-4 as the Rolex Series makes a return visit to Mexico City.