(Columbus, OH) -- After taking another double-top ten finish with both team entries last Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, Michael Shank Racing will once again be racing under the lights on an oval-based road course this Friday...
(Columbus, OH) -- After taking another double-top ten finish with both team entries last Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, Michael Shank Racing will once again be racing under the lights on an oval-based road course this Friday night at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
The Iowa Speedway event marks the Rolex Sports Car Series debut at the facility as the Series races through a hectic summer schedule that will feature five races in six weekends with events stretching from Daytona Beach to Montreal and Watkins Glen to Iowa.
"This is a really busy time for the team, but we have experience with this kind of schedule and it all just comes down to planning everything out well ahead of time," said team owner Mike Shank. "We're excited to have another race in the Midwest, and looking forward to being the main show here on Friday night. It's a tight track, so hopefully we get a clean race and put on a good show for these fans."
The tight Iowa layout is reminiscent of another small oval track, Phoenix Raceway, which hosted the Rolex Series through 2006 and was the site of a Michael Shank Racing top-five result in 2005. While the drivers might be leery of the tight confines on offer at the Iowa track, the Rolex paddock is nonetheless looking forward to what is expected to be a very large and supportive crowd on hand for the Friday night Daytona Prototype-only event.
The No. 6 Playboy-liveried Lexus-Riley of John Pew and Ian James is riding a streak of strong finishes, with five straight top-ten results stretching back to April. Pew scored the Trueman award medal at Daytona with a fourth-place finish.
Pew and Patterson, who have been friends and fellow racers for years, have developed a friendly battle in qualifying. With both drivers taking their career-best qualifying results in recent rounds, the rivalry has arguably fueled them both and has been an important part of Michael Shank Racing's strong team results.
The team won't just be bringing positive momentum from the recent results out West, as a test on the 1.3-mile track earlier this season generated some vital data for the team, and another secret weapon could well be the race experience of driver Ian James, who took a Grand-Am KONI Challenge victory at Iowa in April.
"This is an interesting track because the oval has three different grooves to pick from, and unlike Homestead, it isn't easy flat so there's plenty of time you can make in the oval sections," said James. "I think with how fast these laps are and how small the track is, qualifying is going to be very important this weekend, more important than most of the tracks we go to. Pit stops are also going to be key here, and the team has been doing an excellent job in that category as well."
The No. 60 Lexus-Riley of Patterson and Negri will look to take to the podium once again this season and keep moving up from ninth in the Rolex team championship standings.
"We know that the conditions will be much different from our test and we'll have to work with our set-up to compensate for that," said Patterson. "But we at least have a great baseline to start from and we all know our way around the place, so that's a good way to head into the weekend at a new track. Hopefully we can improve a little bit incrementally and avoid the small problems that have kept us from getting back on the podium like we did at Laguna."
Speed will carry the race on a tape-delay basis starting at 10:00 PM ET on July 13th.