Laguna Seca: Michael Shank Racing preview

Michael Shank Racing Looking For Return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Podium (Columbus, OH) 12 May 2009-After taking in on the chin with a disappointing season-opening event at Daytona, both Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley machines have come back...

Michael Shank Racing Looking For Return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Podium

(Columbus, OH) 12 May 2009-After taking in on the chin with a disappointing season-opening event at Daytona, both Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley machines have come back fighting in rounds two and three of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series championship.

Pacing many of the sessions at Virginia International Raceway and then again as the team looked to defend a 2008 race-winning outing at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Michael Shank Racing has clawed back to take precious championship points as the 2009 season intensifies.

But that strong pace from hasn't yet generated all the points the team is hungry for, and now as the team prepares for round 4 of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, both the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of John Pew and Michael Valiante and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri will aim for the podium on the Monterey peninsula.

Looking at the history of the team, the track is a good choice for a place to pick up momentum. From Patterson and Negri taking a pole position at the track in their debut race together and then adding to their podium tally with a run to 3rd in 2007, to being the site of Pew's first start with the team, the track has been the scene for several highlights for Michael Shank Racing, which is focused on adding a new chapter in the highlight reel this weekend.

"Laguna has always been one of our better tracks, even going back to racing there in Atlantics," said team owner Mike Shank. "Even though the conditions were tough and we had the set-backs early in the race, we at least came out of New Jersey with the cars in once piece so we could turn them around and prepare for the trip out to Laguna on schedule. We've shown all year long that we have the speed to contend for wins just like we did last year, and we just need to get a little bit of racing luck to make that happen."

This race weekend will also be a highlight for three young karters, as Michael Shank Racing will host Brett Felkins, Don McGregor, and Michael Hogg to be embedded with the team. The threesome, who won the opportunity by scoring a podium in the Stars Of Karting TAG ICC event at Infineon Raceway, will get a behind-the-scenes look at what a professional road racing event is like.

The 2009 MRLS event marks Michael Shank Racing anniversaries for both Patterson and Pew, who will both look to keep their inter-squad qualifying rivalry a productive one, as the two continue to up their games and make the most of the Ford-Riley combinations.

"When we first went to Laguna, we weren't exactly sure what to expect," said Patterson, who scored a podium in just his third Rolex race start with Negri. "We certainly got off on the right foot by taking the pole and then having a strong weekend. Ever since then, we've experienced a little bit of everything, including the frustration of being out of contention so early like we were in New Jersey. But this is a track that is a joy to drive and race on lap after lap, so hopefully we can make up for the ground we lost in New Jersey with another podium at Laguna."

After issues early in the rain race, the 8th place finish in New Jersey was a solid fight back for the No. 6, which went on to take the fastest lap of the race with Valiante behind the wheel at the checkered flag. With Pew's qualifying performances so far this year, and extensive experience charging through the Corkscrew, the duo should be strong again this weekend as they look to go even better than their run to 2nd at VIR.

"It's hard to believe that this will already be my third start with Michael Shank Racing at Laguna Seca, and I just can't wait," said Pew, who also has scores of experience on the track in formula car competition and netted a strong 7th in qualifying at VIR. "This team seems to get better every weekend, and with the cars handling so well everywhere we've been this year, I just can't wait to get out there and get going."

-credit: msr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Michael Valiante , John Pew , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing