VIR: Michael Shank Racing preview

Michael Shank Racing VIR-Bound for Bosch 250 (Columbus, OH) April 21 2009--With wins in two of the last three Rolex Sports Car Series races, Michael Shank Racing has been on a hot streak, and will look to return to winning form again this...

Michael Shank Racing VIR-Bound for Bosch 250

(Columbus, OH) April 21 2009--With wins in two of the last three Rolex Sports Car Series races, Michael Shank Racing has been on a hot streak, and will look to return to winning form again this weekend in the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

Following a disappointing Rolex 24 outing, which saw both team entries post strong campaigns before being sidelined by motor issues, the team has been anxious to get back to racing action with the No. 6 Ford-Riley driven by John Pew and Michael Valiante, and the No. 60 Ford-Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri.

While there was a March test session at Homestead, where Michael Shank Racing clocked some of the fastest unofficial times in testing, the competitive fires on the team have been simmering for nearly three months. But that long wait to race is over this weekend. The two-car Daytona Prototype entry is hungry to emulate last year's double-top ten result and will look to score a maiden team podium on the 3.27-mile natural terrain circuit outside of Danville, Virginia.

"It's been too long, but now we are ready to go this weekend in Virginia," said team owner Mike Shank. "We had a great test at Homestead but now it's the real thing at VIR. Everyone has put the disappointment of Daytona behind us, and now we know we have to just come out swinging at VIR and again next week in New Jersey because we have some ground to make up in this championship. We had a great comeback at VIR last year to get both cars in the top ten, and hopefully we can do even better this weekend."

The visit to the VIR facility will mark Pew's second Daytona Prototype start on the track. After not even getting the chance to get belted into the car during the race at Daytona before the motor issue, Pew is arguably the most impatient of the Michael Shank Racing pilots to get back to work this weekend.

"I was happy we at least had the test at Homestead, so it hasn't been too long since I've been in the car, but it certainly has been too long since I've had the chance to race it!" said Pew, who also keeps himself sharp between rounds with an active schedule of karting. "So I'm really happy that this weekend is finally here. VIR is such a drivers track, and the Shank guys do such a great job setting up the car that it can be tremendously satisfying to run there, so I've already got my bags packed, and I'm just ready to go."

No. 6 Ford-Riley machine posted the fastest lap of the race in 2008 and will see a new co-pilot for Pew this year as Michael Valiante makes his first VIR start with Michael Shank Racing. The Canadian ace has his own reasons for looking ahead to the weekend, including having led the race in Rolex competition before.

"The test was a great break from this long wait between races, and fortunately now things are going to be much busier in the next month," said Valiante. "Obviously we were disappointed with how it went at Daytona, but everyone is very confident about the opportunity that we have to make up ground in the championship and to hopefully get this team back up on the podium soon. Michael Shank Racing does an excellent job preparing and engineering these cars, so now I'm really looking forward to seeing how we unload at VIR."

The Homestead test was not only a good opportunity to prepare for the season-ending Rolex Sports Car Series event at the track in October, but it also set the stage for some very closely matched lap times among all four Michael Shank Racing drivers.

"You can't let yourself get too excited about the times you set in a test, but having said that, I was really pleased with how things went at Homestead," said Patterson, who will look to establish a stronger points presence in the Trueman Award standings starting with a strong result this weekend. "We had a long break between Daytona and VIR, but now we'll be quite busy with three races in the next four weeks. Obviously with winning there last year, Ozz and I are really looking forward to New Jersey, but hopefully we can get the second part of the season started well with a strong run this weekend at VIR."

Negri was predictably quick in the Homestead test, and has been keeping himself busy between rounds by making a podium-winning debut Grand-Am Sports Car Challenge race appearance at Homestead driving a Ford Mustang.

"The test was really, really good, and it was a great way to return to my home track at Homestead after being on the podium there just the weekend before," said Negri. "I really feel like this track at VIR kind of owes us one, because we had a small problem with a tire here last year and we had to make an extra pit stop. We ended up getting back into the top ten, but we know we could have been a lot stronger and hopefully we can do that this weekend."

The Bosch Engineering 250 won't be the only race that the team will be paying attention to this weekend, as the Stars of Karting ICC event at the karting facility at Infineon Raceway will determine what young stars visit the team at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round of racing in May. After a big break between rounds one and two, there is nearly none between two and three, as the VIR weekend precedes the New Jersey Motorsports Park Verizon 250 on May 1-3.

-credit: www.michaelshankracing.com

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Michael Valiante , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , John Pew , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing