Michael Shank Racing Returns to NJMP Looking for Return to Victory Lane 2nd and 6th at VIR to kick off a busy week of racing (Millville, NJ) April 28 2009-After taking a nearly three-month break between rounds one and two of the 2009 Rolex...
Michael Shank Racing Returns to NJMP Looking for Return to Victory Lane
2nd and 6th at VIR to kick off a busy week of racing
(Millville, NJ) April 28 2009-After taking a nearly three-month break between rounds one and two of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series season, there will be but seven days separating rounds two and three of the championship as Michael Shank Racing heads to New Jersey Motorsports Park for Sunday's Verizon 250.
The team is the defending race winner at the Millville, New Jersey, track after Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri combined to christen the track with a convincing Rolex Series victory last August.
The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, to be shared this weekend by John Pew and Michael Valiante, was also strong in the 2008 NJMP race, taking 7th at the checkered flag. The No. 6 went on to win the 2008 season-ending event at Miller Motorsports Park, and enters the NJMP weekend fresh off a run to 2nd place at Virginia International Raceway.
With that strong team performance at VIR, and heading to a track where the team already knows the way to victory circle, both Michael Shank Racing entries are looking forward to keeping the momentum going.
"These back to back weekends at VIR and then New Jersey are a great chance for us to make up some ground in the championship, and getting on the podium with John and Michael and then sixth after the comeback for Mark and Ozz was a really good way to do just that," said team owner Mike Shank as the crew went through preparations to turn the car around for the next race weekend.
"There were a lot of highlights for us last weekend, from John's qualifying to the strategy calls the team made to the drives that Michael and Ozz put in," continued Shank. "Mark had an outstanding drive with his run in the top 3 in his stint and had no problem running up there lap after lap. We know we'll have a bit of a target on our back as the defending winners, but we're ok with that. Having had the performance that we did at VIR, we're just really happy to get to go racing again this weekend and not have to wait so long between events. Hopefully we can come out of New Jersey with good points for both cars."
Pew put in a stellar qualifying performance to take 7th at VIR, only to be crashed off course two different times in the opening stages of the race. Pew broke through for his first Rolex Series podium last July, and has clearly enjoyed the experience as he now enters the weekend with three podiums to his credit.
"It's great to have another race weekend right after being on the podium, especially after how frustrated I was by my opening stint last weekend, " said Pew. "Even though I was frustrated, VIR was really special just to see how the entire team came back from what looked to be a horrible race and then we very nearly won the thing! Going on the New Jersey, everything is reset now, and we can focus on getting a good start to the race and just see what happens."
Valiante, who is also familiar with how to find the podium at NJMP having scored second place in the race last year, is hungry to move up one spot on the box this weekend.
"Leading as much of the race at VIR as we did but not winning was a bit frustrating, so hopefully we'll have the speed once again this weekend and convert it into a win in New Jersey," said Valiante. "John had a great qualifying result at VIR and if we can get off to a clean start without any problems from other competitors this weekend, we should be in good shape for a strong result."
The south New Jersey track was barely completed as the Rolex Series staged the race last Labor Day weekend, but the facility has not stopped making upgrades and refinements in advance of this weekend's two hour and forty-five minute race. But despite the upgrades, and what may turn out to be more challenging weather conditions than last year, the drivers for the No. 60 machine will look for an identical result.
"The car we raced at VIR was one of the best cars that Michael Shank Racing has ever prepared, so I can not wait to get back into the car and see if we can't do even better this weekend," said Patterson. "John had a great qualifying and a great result last weekend, but I'll be looking to even the score a little bit this weekend in New Jersey. Coming to a track as the defending race winner gives you a little boost of confidence, and knowing how well the car has been handling going back to the test we had at Homestead gives you even more."
Negri, who staged a mammoth comeback to rally from contact from behind that sent him into the pits and down to 24th in the order, only to race back and finish the race 6th despite having to do most of the work in green flag conditions, the NJMP return is one that has him even more optimistic than he normally is.
"This car was so, so, good last weekend and it's just a shame we got hit and weren't able to fight for a podium," said Negri, who also netted a podium in March as he piloted a Mustang to 3rd place in his KONI Challenge debut. "But sixth was good for the points, and now we can look to build on that this weekend. Taking this win last year was a real highlight and hopefully we can do it again on Sunday. This team worked so hard at VIR and I'd like nothing more than to have some more hardware to show off at the shop."
The Stars Of Karting TAG ICC event ran at Infineon Raceway last weekend, and the top three finishers-Brett Felkins, Don McGregor, and Michael Hogg, will be invited to join Michael Shank Racing at the Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in two weeks time.