Michael Shank Racing geared up for competition return at Homestead Championship focus for first of four upcoming Rolex sprint events (Homestead, FL) 27 March 08 --With a front row start and a double top-ten class finish in the season-opening...
Michael Shank Racing geared up for competition return at Homestead
Championship focus for first of four upcoming Rolex sprint events
(Homestead, FL) 27 March 08 --With a front row start and a double top-ten class finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Michael Shank Racing got the 2008 Rolex season off on the right foot. But the team is looking for even more this weekend as the Rolex Sports Car Series gears up for the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Homestead Miami Speedway.
The Saturday afternoon race marks the first of four sprint-distance events for the Rolex Series as the championship picks up pace starting this weekend in Florida before heading south to Mexico City, returning back Stateside to Virginia International Raceway and then heading West to Laguna Seca in May.
Michael Shank Racing will look for strong results from both sides of the team garage as the full-time driver line up remains intact from the end of last season. The No. 6 Ford-Riley will see John Pew and Ian James team up, while the Daytona pole winning No. 60 Ford-Riley combination will once again be pushed to the limits by Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri.
The blazing speed the team showed at Daytona was confirmed once again during a two-day test at Homestead at the end of February where the team was quickest in the unofficial timing, and has the entire organization anxious to get back to competition this weekend.
"We're geared up to go," said team owner Mike Shank. "It was good to get some testing in last month, but this team is about competition, so we are just chomping at the bit to get back down to Homestead and race again. We know that with what we did at Daytona and with how well testing went, a lot of teams are going to be gunning for us, but we welcome that. Ford Racing continues to impress me with the engineering support they have delivered, and we've been working non-stop back in the shop to be ready to fight for it."
Ever since growing to a two-entry Daytona Prototype effort, Michael Shank Racing has impressed by consistently preparing both team entries to be closely matched, so it is difficult to pick a favorite for the weekend.
The No. 6 of Pew and James will have a number of factors in their favor. Pew will relish his proximity to home, having sailed in to North Palm Beach some two decades ago and deciding to call it home. Pew's impressive rookie campaign has also ratcheted up the expectations, as his quick adaption to the Daytona Prototypes in 2007 will continue to pay dividends this season as he returns to tracks like Homestead, where he has previous experience.
"Hopefully it will be a big help!" said Pew. "I know what this team is capable of and we were right on it in the test. We know we have a competitive package with this Ford-Riley but just need to convert this speed into some solid results. These guys never stop, though, so we'll try some things out when we hit the track in practice and see how the weekend goes. I can't wait to get back to racing, though--it's been a long break!"
His teammate, Ian James, also has reason to be optimistic about the weekend. Last year, in just his third Daytona Prototype start with the team, James led nearly twenty laps at Homestead, and went on to take a win in KONI Challenge competition later in the season.
"I'm not sure what it is about this track, but I have always enjoyed being at the front there!" said James. "John (Pew) is doing a fantastic job in the car and after the disappointment of the 24, we really just want to get some points in the bag and be focused on this championship. The team is working really well, and we know that we should be very competitive this weekend."
On the other side of the garage this weekend is the No. 60 machine, which will pack a 1-2 punch with Patterson and Negri. Patterson, himself a former boxer, has impressed with his qualifying efforts at the oval-based road course facility.
"This team had a remarkable run of strong finishes throughout the year last season but this event didn't go as we wanted and that hurt us in the championship," said Patterson, who will look to recapture the Trueman Award in 2008. "But in our corner is a really fast car, as Dave Kanning and the guys have just been doing everything possible to get everything out of this Ford-Riley. We were quick in testing but of course nothing stands still in this sport, so we'll have to be even better this weekend."
Negri has shown his affinity for what is also his home track, having scored a podium in his very first start with the team in 2004.
"This is a very important race weekend because we know we have a strong package and we just want to get everything possible out of it from start to finish," said Negri. "Mark has always been very good here and with this new Pirelli tire and the Ford package, he was even better in the test. Since I live down here, this race is also very special because I have so many friends and family here for the race, and it motivates me just that little extra bit."