Michael Shank Racing Drivers Negri and Valiante Show Well in SuperNationals (Columbus, OH) 24 November 2010- Michael Shank Racing drivers Ozz Negri and Michael Valiante kept their racing chops sharp by taking part in kartings biggest event of...
Michael Shank Racing Drivers Negri and Valiante Show Well in SuperNationals
(Columbus, OH) 24 November 2010- Michael Shank Racing drivers Ozz Negri and Michael Valiante kept their racing chops sharp by taking part in kartings biggest event of the year as the two raced in SKUSA's 14th running of the SuperNationals at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas last weekend. With the race attracting the top karting talent from across the globe as well as some big names from top-level motorsports, the 14th running of the SuperNationals was the largest to date with nearly 500 karters entered.
While it was Negri's debut run in the huge five-day event, the SuperNationals marked Valiantes tenth campaign, with the Canadian hotshoe already boasting three wins in the prestigious race on his lengthy karting resume. The race weekend was also a big one for Valiantes family organization behind the ItalKart brand, which was on hand in force for the race weekend. With the ItalKart chassis and motor preparation firm supporting 18 karters in several classes ranging from TaG Junior to TaG Masters during the event, the SuperNationals are the SuperBowl, Rolex 24, and Daytona 500 all rolled into one for the group.
Balancing his role as both driver and team manager, Valiante showed strength in both as he finished third in the huge SuperFinal event, with team driver Andre Nicastro winning the race by an amazing .001 seconds. In addition to placing 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th in the Masters SuperFinal, the ItalKart machines were also very competitive in a range of classes and were on-target for a class win in the TaG Junior class before a crash put paid to those hopes.
"It was a long, cold week, but it was a very good one for me and for ItalKarts," said Valiante. "Every race weekend is important of course, but it's critical for us to do well here because there is very much a 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday' effect with this big race. This event gets tougher and tougher, and teams are showing up very well prepared, and the top 30 guys here have all won major events. It can sometimes be stressful to balance between going out and going for it as a driver, and then everything that you have to do for the team and making sure all the ItalKart drivers are getting everything that they need through the week. But I really love it. And even though I didn't win this year, it's almost just as good that Andre (Nicastro) still won for ItalKarts and I still got the podium so it was a very good SuperNationals for us. It was also fun to have Ozz around--I wasn't surprised that he was up to speed so quickly."
While Valiante fought to a podium result in the SuperFinal, it was a harder road for his Michael Shank Racing teammate Negri, who was picked up by event debutant Kayla Graham Racing for the SuperNationals and was making his very first start in the race as well.
Negri was quickly on the pace during the practice sessions, but was slowed during the critical qualifying session by an ignition problem, setting him deep in the grid for the heat races. The Brazilian fought his way through, including an inspired drive in the rain to qualify 14th for the SuperFinal race on Sunday. Some rough and tumble racing saw him take 23rd at the finish as the outing underscored how intensely competitive the event is.
"It was an amazing experience for me and I really loved how intense it was," said Negri, who is active in the karting community in the Miami area. "Having Michael (Valiante) there was great because he's got so much experience and was a great resource for me. I was learning, every time, and to be in racing for as long as I have been and still be learning, I just really enjoyed it and it was a great opportunity to race for Kayla Graham Racing. We were hoping for more in the SuperFinal, but still to make it to that race and be continually improving all weekend long, I loved it. Now, on to Homestead!"
Michael Shank Racing will be back in action at Homestead Miami Speedway December 1-2 as the GRAND-AM season races to the start with two days of testing ahead of the "Roar Before the 24" test January 7-9.