Michael Shank Racing Completes 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (30 January 2011)- All three Michael Shank Racing team entries led the race before taking top-ten finishes in the grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season. At one point deep in the race, the team ran in 1-2-3 formation with the three Daytona Prototype entries leading the pack. J Leading the team charge was the No. 23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Johnnie Walker/ FXI/ UBS Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson, Zak Brown, Martin Brundle, and Mark Blundell as the group scored an impressive fourth place finish. The result netted Brown the prestigious Jim Trueman Award for the top Pro-Am effort.
The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Continental Tire Flip For Four Ford-Dallara of AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, and Michael McDowell finished seventh after leading 32 laps.
The No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley of John Pew, Ozz Negri, Marc Goossens, and Michael Valiante finished tenth after overcoming a number of frustrating setbacks through the race distance.
Twenty four hours of racing kicked off with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 6 Dallara and Oswaldo Negri at the controls of the No.60 Riley from fifth and 11th positions respectively. Throughout the first two hours, both team cars were able to circulate comfortably within the Top-10, with the crew clicking off the first pitstop of the day with ease.
As darkness descended on the World Center of Racing, Allmendinger and Negri completed their first stints. Allmendinger handed the No. 6 off to Justin Wilson while Negri traded with John Pew after nearly two hours of competition. Mirroring the first pair of drivers, both Wilson and Pew maintained their presence in the Top-10 of the overall running order. As planned, Pew's stint lasted an hour before Michael Valiante took his first turn at the wheel.
At the three hour mark, the No. 6 ran in second place overall and the No. 60 in sixth place. Wilson remained behind the wheel until just before the start of hour 4, when the third of three drivers in the No. 6 line up, Michael McDowell took over. The No. 60 entry contained a four driver line up with Marc Goossens completing the rotation.
A quarter of the way into the full race distance, the Michael Shank Racing team cars had experienced no major dramas, especially with the No. 6 car which had spent considerable time running in second overall. At the hour 6 mark, the No. 6 was indeed in second overall, tailing the No. 23 United Autosports racing with Michael Shank entry in the lead, while the No. 60 was comfortably seventh in the running order.
Moments after the race had entered its sixth hour of competition, Allmendinger extended his streak of leading laps in the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing for the sixth straight year, staying at the point until he pitted on lap 189. During the next six hours, Wilson would also enjoy time at the head of the race. The No. 60 car had its time at the front as well, taking the point on lap 256.
During the eighth hour of competition, the No 60 car experienced the first of an unfortunate string of setbacks that would conspire to keep Michael Shank Racing from earning a result that matched the effort that was put into preparing for the race.
The frantic pace also saw multiple incidents on track, leaving debris in spades. Unfortunately, something on the racing surface forced the No. 60 machine back to the pits after cutting a tire. The setback was deepened after GRAND-AM officials called the car, with Pew behind the wheel, back in for 30-second stop penalty owing to a pit lane procedural infraction. For the first time in the race, a Michael Shank Racing machine would lose a lap to the overall leader.
On lap 303, the No. 6, being driven by McDowell pitted for routine service, only to come back in on lap 305 due to some unsettling vibrations. A new set of Continental Tires were quickly fitted. Fortunately, this all transpired during one of the 23 full course caution periods, limiting the track position damage.
The No. 60 was less lucky. After their series of visits to the pits, the car was back in for a nose change under green, and slipped to ninth place in the running order, eventually causing it to go one more lap down on the leaders.
The No. 6 seemed to recover better from its early setbacks, as it continued to be a serious contender for the win up until just before the midway point of the race, with the machine falling one lap down late at night. As dawn approached in the 15th hour, a dense fog rolled in, causing the third longest caution period in the 49th running of the legendary race. From darkness to light, the field cruised behind the pace car for two hours and forty seven minutes.
But with some hustled driving ahead of the yellow and some good pit strategy, the No. 6 entry was soon back on the lead lap. However, when green flag racing resumed as the fog burned off, the No. 6 car fell slightly short of its early race promise. A broken rear tie rod with less than four hours to go blunted any hope the team had left of fighting for the win, despite matching the leader's pace all the way to the end. Ultimately, Allmendinger brought the car to the finish in seventh place, two laps down on the leader.
When the fog lifted, the day became sunny and warm, but it was of no help to the No. 60 entry. Like so many other teams, track debris and minor, but seemingly constant contact from other cars began to take its toll. Already trying to overcome a two-lap deficit, matters only got worse when splitter damage. But the team and drivers stayed focused on the finish and the championship points that come with a run in the top ten.
The final stages of the race saw the No. 23 stage a significant bid for a podium position as the former F1 aces showed that rust was not in their vocabulary. A thrilling late race battle saw the No.23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley come home fourth.
The team will return to Rolex competition at Homestead Miami Speedway in March.
"I'm proud of the effort of this team. We didn't leave anything on the table. It wasn't what we were hoping for, but with the conditions and pace and how hard everyone was going at it, we have to be happy to have all three cars finish even if it wasn't where we wanted them to be in the results and were hoping for a little more. The 23 car was exciting to watch at the finish, really impressive. But now we are looking ahead--the next track we go to we've tested at and have been real quick. I think our pit work is really good, we're going to learn some things also at it. We've got another updated motor coming too, which I'm anxious to get and we'll get on the homestretch."
"The car held up well-- we had a good race, we had a great strategy the guys worked really hard. We just had a couple little hiccups that cost us some laps, but we all got to lead a little bit and had some fun and all in all it was a great performance. It just gets you into the right mind set being here at Daytona obviously it's very physical and very mental so it just helps to get the season jump started. It's always nice to start the season on a win but we have some positives to build on. I think we're still working on next year, might have four guys just to relieve it a little bit in the middle of the night! It was great driving with AJ and Justin and hopefully they'll have me back."
"It's been a long 24 hours but everybody at MSR has been working hard and kept fighting and you know did a great job. Unfortunately it wasn't quite good enough for the win but I think we gave it everything we got. AJ and Michael did a perfect job in the car so I'm pretty happy and we'll come back next year and try and win it. It's a strong pace but the biggest surprise was the amount of incidents there was, you always get that here at Daytona but a lot of really good cars were racing hard early on and took themselves out of contention so that kind of set the tone for the whole race. I've had some strong finishes here in the past so I want to come back here and win it, so that's definitely the plan."
"We unfortunately had lots of setbacks. We set up our expectations pretty high and unfortunately things didn't work our way. We were victims of some very aggressive driving in the early stages of the race and that cost us a lot of time. The sour taste is that we didn't get that watch yet. So we have to try again next year. I had one of the best cars I have ever had here in Daytona, unfortunately we were not there in the end to fight but I'm pretty sure that we had a top-three car for sure."
"It's another 24 hour race. You never know what's going to happen until you're in it. I think we had our share of bad luck. We had a couple of things go wrong. Early on we went two laps down because of a tire and as a strong team we managed to get back on the lead lap and control it from there by still keeping a good pace but not taking many risks. But if you go another two laps down, and then they put a safety car out for three hours, then life becomes a little more difficult. There were ups and downs but for me it was a very good experience with MSR. It's good to be back with Ozz. I had a great weekend with Michael and John and I think we need to come back and try again next time."
This race you can never fully prepare for it. You just need to be ready for what happens and early on we got a flat tire and we went down two laps and we were able to come back from that. We had a quick car but unfortunately we had a few issues like the flat tire that set us back a couple laps and once you fall too far back it's hard to catch up. The car was pretty good. I mean we could run the pace of the leaders - we set good times. We had a few brake issues that caused us to slow down a little bit, but all in all if we hadn't of had any issues and stayed out of the pits, we would have been right there in the end."
"We were definitely a little bit off on set up. It felt like we made it better at least from when we started the race but ultimately it was a lot of work. It wasn't easy. I like the line-up we just need to sort the other car out a little bit better. Maybe we'll talk Shank into getting the other car back and we'll go win with that one."
"The track was at its worst at the end. It was hot and greasy and there was stuff all over the track so I was just trying to keep the car in one piece and maintain our position and learn a little bit about driving in those kinds of conditions because I don't get to do that too often. It's a great feeling to finish. WE made it 24 hours which is an accomplishment in itself. It was a very good experience. I'm feeling good about the rest of the season I'm feeling good about the car and I'm feeling good about the whole Shank crew and our test at HMS went very well and I'm very happy about that. I'm looking forward to the whole season. I go to Homestead every week. I go down to the kart track not the race track, but it does feel like home.