By Michael Shank Racing
Michael Shank Racing Takes Fifth at Road America
Michael Shank Racing finished fifth in the Road America 250 Driven by VISITFLORIDA.com on Saturday with the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley as the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve staged round 7 of the 2011 championship. While the effort brought the fifth top-six result of the season, the fifth place finish was disappointing for the team after having shown strength in early-weekend practice outings, an outstanding qualifying effort from John Pew, and a promising race-day warm up session.
Saturday’s Road America 250 Driven by VISITFLORIDA.com opened with Pew behind the wheel after netting his career-best Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying result with fifth on the combined GT and Daytona Prototype grid. At the start, Pew once again held station and began to grow an advantage early in the race to keep the Crown Royal machine fifth in the order. But the race was brought into a full course caution after a dramatic two-car GT class accident saw significant damage to the track safety equipment, causing an extended safety car period to rectify the situation.
While the track didn’t see too much action as the field circulated, the calculators for the Michael Shank Racing engineers were fully engaged as the team worked to find the optimum strategy for the sprint two-hour event as the yellow flag period was extended. The team elected to pit and get the driver change done with Ozz Negri taking over the controls. The move initially cost track position as he was mired with the GT traffic, but it played dividends as he cycled through to the lead group. Unfortunately, his forward progress stalled as his lap times didn’t show the same speed that the Crown Royal machine had posted through the weekend sessions ahead of the race. But Negri held on to bring the Crown Royal car home for another top-five finish as the team looks ahead to round 8 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“I had a great time in the first stint--unfortunately, it was short because of the yellow we had,” said Pew, who once again nabbed the top Pro-Am award for the event. “We didn’t have the car today that we’ve had all weekend, so I felt for Ozz to be out there fighting it like he had to. It was a long stint for him in tough conditions, he was just driving his heart out.”
“I think we had a good car this morning, and we were pretty confident about the race,”said Negri. “But with the temperatures changing the way they did and how the track got the rubber down, something cost us and we just didn’t have the grip we needed. We got what we had to get points wise. We’ll keep working and we’ll come back strong at Laguna Seca. That’s a track that I like and I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m not sure what happened with our pace in the second half of the race,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We really felt like we had a strong car all weekend long, but something happened and Ozz just didn’t have the grip he needed. We’ll go back and see what we can find out. But for me, the biggest take away from the weekend is the job that John did--he was on it, all weekend long. I’m proud of our effort, but just not happy with the result so we’ll regroup and focus on being ready to go again at Laguna.”
The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round will see the Michael Shank Racing squad growing in scope as the series returns to the Monterey Peninsula for round 8 of the 2011 championship.