Birmingham, AL (9 April 2011)-- Michael Shank Racing had been hoping to continue an impressive streak of podium results at Barber Motorsports Park, but a sticking throttle set the effort back. Crafty driving from both pilots saw the team rally to finish sixth in round three of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship with the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford-Riley.
John Pew, who with co-driver Ozz Negri finished this race in second place last year, opened the event from behind the wheel, moving up to run third before turning the car over to Negri.
Despite the forward progress, there was already a problem as the throttle was sticking open during Pew's opening shift.
"It was frustrating because you would get into a corner and you wouldn't know what the car was going to do," said Pew. "It was inconsistent--sometimes it would stick and sometimes it wouldn't. And there are a lot of corners where you are using the throttle to balance the car or get it to rotate so it made it even more of a challenge. It's just really hard to be consistent when you are fighting with that, every corner."
After the driver change, Negri was faced with the same issue. A pair of pit stops to make repairs to address the problem saw Negri fighting from a lap down despite the quick pit work from the Michael Shank Racing crew.
It was a great car--the balance was awesome.
Even with a daunting challenge like an inconsistently sticking throttle, Negri was able to string lap after lap at the leaders pace, clawing his way back onto the lead lap and eventually fight his way up to sixth at the checkered flag.
"It was a great car--the balance was awesome," said Negri, who It was a greawas matching the leaders lap times in the final segments of the race. "To be putting those laps in, with the problem that we had, was amazing. It was a bad situation with the sticky throttle. I had to go from right foot braking to left foot braking during the race just so I could manage."
Negri had been hoping for more out of the event as the team targets more upward mobility in the points standings.
"I had a quicker car than the result shows," said Negri. "I love working with this crew. I was really motivated to do well for them. We missed having the 23 car with us this weekend and I hope they are back soon. I'm encouraged about the weekend--its frustrating and was tough, but we worked very hard and our results keep improving. We were hoping to have John back on the podium--he has a great record at Barber, but it was just not meant to be for us today."
That was an incredible drive out of Ozz.
"That was an incredible drive out of Ozz to come back from a lap down and make up so much ground, even though he was driving a car that had that problem," said Pew. "Just amazing."
"To have a car that clearly had good speed, all the way through the run but not be able to turn that into a podium is just really disappointing," admitted team owner Mike Shank, who as a former racer himself understands exactly what kind of challenge his drivers were facing. "It's so hard for the drivers to drive a car like that, and they both reacted as well as you could hope for in a situation like this. John had a great opening stint and we had great track position after his run, but even though Ozz put in a hell of a drive, it just didn't come close to what we were hoping for this weekend."