Michael Shank Racing takes popular pole position at Laguna Seca (Monterey, CA) April 30 -- Oswaldo Negri Jr. has worked hard to make the most of every opportunity he has had in racing, and today was no different, as the Brazilian ace scored pole...
Michael Shank Racing takes popular pole position at Laguna Seca
(Monterey, CA) April 30 -- Oswaldo Negri Jr. has worked hard to make the most of every opportunity he has had in racing, and today was no different, as the Brazilian ace scored pole position for Sunday's Road & Track 250 with a fast lap time of 1:24.357-seconds to enter his name in the record books as the first-ever Daytona Prototype pole winner at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the #60 MatlinPatterson Asset Management Lexus-Riley for Michael Shank Racing.
The #6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac-Riley also put in a strong performance, as Kenny Wilden overcame a technical problem to power the car into the top ten with a fast lap time of 1:25.794 seconds netting him ninth on the grid. Wilden is standing in for full-season driver Paul Mears Jr., who was unable to make the race weekend due to conflicting business commitments.
The pole position is the first in Rolex Sports Car Series competition for the Michael Shank Racing team, which joined the series at the beginning of 2004.
Despite a break-out 2004 season with the MSR squad, Negri has been unable to land a ride, forcing to watch the racing instead of take part in it so far this season, but has partnered with Star Mazda Pro Series Mark Patterson driver for the weekend. The pole was greeted with universal enthusiasm not only by the team, but also by the Grand Am paddock, as rival teams and drivers recognize the speed and talent that Negri possesses, and were quick to congratulate him on his accomplishment.
"It was great that everyone was clearly so excited for me and the team to take pole," said Negri. ""I have to say thank you to Lexus and to Mike Shank and his guys for working as hard as they do to prepare a car that was capable of taking the pole today. I knew right when we got on track here this weekend that we had a great combination and being second quick in practice yesterday was another confidence boost for me and the team."
Despite not being in a race car for nearly six months, Negri was up to speed right away this weekend.
"To be out of the car for so long and take the pole the first time back is really just fantastic for me and shows what I have been saying about how absolutely incredible this Michael Shank Racing team is," said Negri. "This is also my engineer Dave Kanning's first time being the lead engineer on a Daytona Prototype, and he obviously did a fantastic job. I am just so thankful for the opportunity that Mark Patterson and the team have created for me this weekend, and I am really looking forward to the race."
Team owner Mike Shank was excited to have both his cars perform so well, and proud of his teams accomplishment so far this weekend.
"What can I say about Oswaldo?" said Shank. "That guy is all heart. He did a great job today and the whole team is glad to have him back with us. Hopefully I can hold onto him for the season."
The #6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac-Riley has been quick in every session this weekend, but a sensor failed during the session and significantly effected the performance of the car.
"Kenny did a great job to get that time even though he had the problem with the car," said Shank. "We know what went wrong, and it will be no problem to get the car set for tomorrow. It's a shame because we could have had both cars in the top five, but the #6 car is very strong and they should be able to move up during the race tomorrow."
Starting at the front for a race that boasts the most cars ever in a sprint-format Grand Am race, Negri knows he has the best seat in the house, but also that its not going to be easy.
"It's great to be starting up front for the race with how many cars there are in the race and how really tight the track is, but we are all going to have to deal with traffic all day long, so hopefully being up front will help with that and we can get a clean start to the race tomorrow."
The U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be shown live May 1st on Speed Channel at 3:00 PM EST.