Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian
Detroit, Mich. (2 June 2012) – With some shrewd strategy, quick pit stops, and strong driving, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian fought to a fifth place result with drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri as the team led the Ford contingent in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debut through the streets of Belle Isle. Pew opened the two-hour sprint event from ninth on the grid, and had another strong opening stint as he moved the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley up to fourth before pitting under the first full course caution for fuel, tires and a driver change.
“We still had a good bit of push in the high speed corners so it was a bit of a challenge to find all the grip I wanted!” said Pew. “But it was a good clean start and I was pretty happy with the stint.”
Negri returned to the track seventh in the order as he led the group of Fords that followed the higher downforce Corvette machines out front.
With just over an hour to go and not having the strong outright pace that the Corvettes were showing, Michael Shank Racing elected to make a strategic call and brought Negri to pit lane for an early final pit stop for fuel and left side tires. The bold call was a good one, as the track went yellow shortly after the stop allowing Negri to cycle through to restart from second place with 50 minutes remaining in the race.
The closing stages of the race saw Negri in an intense battle as he ran in second place, fighting for a podium position with the Ganassi machine and then the zealously-charging No. 99 Corvette, which made contact with Negri multiple times before taking on a fresh set of rubber late in the race to stage another run at the position.
Despite the No. 60 being on much older tires and some questionable driving from the No. 99, Negri did a masterful job of defending lap after lap. Despite every effort to keep the No. 99 machine behind him, Gurney would ultimately force his way by the No. 60 Ford-Riley with two minutes to go as Negri brought home the team’s third top-five finish of the season.
“It was pretty exciting - I didn’t even see the time go by because every lap was an adventure,” said Negri. “The crew gave me a great track position. I knew it was going to be hard to hold the position but I just had do what I am paid to do and I thought I was doing a fine and honest job. There were a lot of other guys that passed me from behind and I had no problems with them. I never expected a champion like Alex (Gurney) to do what he did. He tried to push me off many laps during the green and then--under yellow--he tried to push me into Pruett! So I had to go on the brakes and lock everything up not to hit Pruett. But all in all, it’s a good result. We are P2 in the championship. We just have to get equal fields here because we are not in the same field with the Corvettes. It was a good team effort and I just gave my all.”
The fifth place result moves the team to a multi-car tie for second in the unofficial point standings as Michael Shank Racing heads to their home race of Mid-Ohio next weekend for Round 5 of the 2012 championship.
“It was a really, really good drive from both of our guys today,” offered team owner Mike Shank. “Ozz really put it on them today. I thought he did a great job. Our car wasn’t great, but he really kept everybody behind him for a long time. I couldn’t ask any more from him today. And now we’re going to Mid-Ohio P2 in the championship and it will be our first race at home as Rolex 24 Champions, so we are all really looking forward to a strong run next Saturday.”
“Ozz held on for all he could there at the end, but the other guys had fresher tires and we just didn’t have anything for them,” said Pew. “But I’m really proud of the effort that this team put out this weekend. You have to just keep fighting in this series, and some of our championship competitors had some problems today so we want to just keep executing and making the most of every weekend. On to Mid-Ohio!”