Michael Shank Racing signs Penske Racing teammates for 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona (Daytona, FL) 7 November 06--The 2006 debut for the Flight Options Lexus Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson went nearly perfectly to plan, as the two opened...
Michael Shank Racing signs Penske Racing teammates for 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona
(Daytona, FL) 7 November 06--The 2006 debut for the Flight Options Lexus Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson went nearly perfectly to plan, as the two opened up the season with a strong second place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with co-drivers A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson.
Negri and Patterson went on to take a fine first victory at Miller Motorsports Park to close out the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series season. The professional driver and gentleman racer combination are looking to make it to the top step of the podium once again, this time in the biggest race of the year.
To that end, team owner Mike Shank announced today the signing of Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves to co-drive the No.60 Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley entry with Negri and Patterson in the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Hornish and Castroneves have three Indianapolis 500 victories between them, and will be looking to add a Rolex 24 At Daytona win to their already impressive racing resumes.
The assembly of winning drivers is a kind of homecoming on several fronts for the Columbus, Ohio-based team.
Hornish, a native of Defiance, Ohio, ran for Shank in Toyota Atlantic competition in 1999 on his way up the ladder towards success in the IndyCar Series, winning one race and taking "Rookie of the Year" honors. Hornish made his Rolex 24 debut that same year, co-driving with Shank in the team owner's final race outing as a driver.
Hornish recently raced on the 3.65-mile infield road course at Daytona in June, taking fifth in the IROC Series return to road racing. Hornish, who won his first Indianapolis 500 win and his third career IndyCar Series championship this year, is hoping to get his 2007 season off to a competitive start.
"Winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona would be a great way to kick off the 2007 season," said Hornish. "The list of people that have won the Rolex 24 and the Indianapolis 500 is pretty short. It would be pretty special if Helio and I were able to add our names to that list. I am also excited to race with Mike (Shank) again. The team's recent success and their experience in the Rolex Sports Car Series will prove to be invaluable as we attempt to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona."
Castroneves and Negri have known each other since their karting days as young men with big dreams back in Brazil and despite their divergent paths in the sport, the two Miami-based Brazilians have remained friends. The Rolex event will mark the Rolex Sports Car Series debut for Castroneves.
"I've been talking with Mike (Shank) for a long time, and I am really happy things worked out for me to be racing with this team. They have a lot of experience in this kind of racing and can teach me what I need to know," said Castroneves. "I am good friends with Oz, and I'm looking forward to having a good time with all the drivers, but I'm more focused on going for a win. We race on a lot of tracks with banking, but Daytona is like nothing you can imagine, so I'm really glad to have this opportunity."
In his first full season of Rolex competition, car owner Patterson scored the Trueman Award in 2006 as Grand American recognized the best-performing gentleman racer. The South African-born businessman relished his debut on the Rolex 24 podium last year, but is looking to make it to the top step this time around.
"There is an incredible amount of preparation that goes into a race like the 24, and Mike showed last year that this team can go wheel to wheel with some of the biggest names in the sport, and just like at Miller Motorsports Park this year, we want to claim the victory spot at Daytona," said Patterson. "Sam and Helio are going to be an important part of this effort, and we are excited that they are teaming up with us."
The 2007 event will mark the 45th running of the twice around the clock classic, and will once again see the best of the best from across the motorsports spectrum take on one of the greatest challenges in the sport.
"Finishing second last year really put us on the map and after winning the last race of the season, we are really focused on success in the 24," said Patterson. "It was satisfying to finish the race with such a strong result, but of course we want to go for the win and know we have all the ingredients we need to achieve that."
With a fourth place finish in the DP class in 2004 and 2006's second place result, Michael Shank Racing knows what it takes to get to the finish of the grueling event and is focused on going one better in 2007.
"I'm just really excited about our line-up and the whole team has a lot of confidence not just from how we ended the season, but also from how we were able to perform in this race last year," said Shank. "This race is a huge challenge for everyone involved and you never know what you are going to be fighting, but we feel like we're going down there with our guns loaded."