Michael Shank Racing Drivers Ozz Negri and Michael Valiante Ready for SuperNationals Daytona Prototype racers return to their roots for karting's biggest race Las Vegas, Nev. 18 November, 2010- Racers never stop, and even though there is a...
Michael Shank Racing Drivers Ozz Negri and Michael Valiante Ready for SuperNationals
Daytona Prototype racers return to their roots for karting's biggest race
Las Vegas, Nev. 18 November, 2010- Racers never stop, and even though there is a brief break between the Rolex Sports Car Series test at VIR in October and the upcoming test at Homestead, Michael Shank Racing drivers Ozz Negri and Michael Valiante will be still going full speed this weekend as both prepare to race in the 14th annual SuperNationals, organized by SKUSA!
Held on a temporary circuit in Las Vegas's Rio Casino parking lot, the SuperNationals is a huge gathering of karters from across the globe. The 2010 event is the largest-ever, with nearly 500 karters entered for the five-day event.
In the same way that the Rolex 24 At Daytona pits the regular Rolex Sports Car Series drivers against some of the worlds leading talents from across the motorsports globe, the SuperNationals also carries that theme with full-time professional karting aces bringing their best game as they take on the 'invading' drivers like Negri and Valiante.
For both Valiante and Negri, the SuperNationals is not only a chance to race in a completely different environment than what they are accustomed to in the Rolex Sports Car Series, but there is also a mix of business and pleasure for them both.
Valiante has competed in the event regularly in the last decade, with three victories ranking among his highlight accomplishments in the Canadian's remarkable karting career. The event is also a huge weekend for the family business, ItalKart, as his team will be campaigning 18 karters including Valiante during the weekend.
"I've been telling Ozz to do this (SuperNationals) forever, so it's great that he's finally out here doing it," said Valiante, who serves in part as team manager as well as driver during the hectic weekend. "He's quick and even though he's never been to this race before, he'll be right there. This is a big weekend for ItalKart as well, and we're pretty confident about this year. The event keeps getting bigger and bigger, so it's definitely one that you really want to win. Everyone is so close--everything comes down to just hundreths (of a second). The field is so deep with talent, it's amazing and if you can come out of here with a strong result, its really a big accomplishment."
For Negri, who started his racing career with a string of championships in his native Brazil but has not entered a pro-level national karting race for at least 15 years, there is also more at stake than just winning and losing. As the North American importer for Kart Mini karting chassis, Negri will be putting his brand on the starting line as he targets bragging rights and new development data for the chassis on a very high-profile stage as he has been picked up by Kayla Graham Racing with support from JCKarting.com for the weekend.
The event got off to a positive start for both drivers, as Valiante led the charts in the first timed session of the weekend, with Negri in sixth in his first-ever run on the Vegas circuit.
Karting is a big part of the training regimen that Negri and his Michael Shank Racing co-driver John Pew put to work to continually improve not just physical conditioning, but also race fitness as well. But despite his frequent long hot afternoons of pounding out the laps from on board his kart, it has been a long time since Negri has taken to the track in competition in an event of this stature. And he is relishing every minute of it.
"I'm just like a kid, I'm having so much fun it's unbelievable," said Negri, who also serves as a mentor for a lot of young karting talents in the south Florida area. "I want to thank John Graham for putting this team together and having JCKarting here to support us, we have everything we need. I went out in the first session and was just amazed--the talent is so deep here! We were 1.2 seconds off in the first session, and I thought, 'oh boy...' But we've improved and now we are closer to where we want to be. It's great to do this with Michael--we are competing of course, but he's been a huge help and it's a great experience for us both. There is a lot of respect there and I'm just so excited to be here."
Another interested observer is team owner Mike Shank, who is keeping tabs on the weekend from the teams home base as Michael Shank Racing continues preparations for the 2011 season and the upcoming test at Homestead Miami Speedway.
"This SuperNationals race is all those two (Negri and Valiante) have been talking about all week!" said Shank. "It's great that they are out there and got off to the start that they have already. I know that Ozz and John are constantly out there on the karts and that constant preparation shows every time that they get in the Daytona Prototype. Karting is a huge passion for a lot of guys here in the shop so we're all pulling for them both this weekend. Even though they've played it down, I know both those guys hate to lose..."