Pew Leads Michael Shank Racing Qualifying Charge at VIR; Strong Friday as Rolex kicks back into action (Alton, VA) April 24 2009-John Pew capped off a strong opening day for Michael Shank Racing on Friday at Virginia International Raceway as ...
Pew Leads Michael Shank Racing Qualifying Charge at VIR; Strong Friday as Rolex kicks back into action
(Alton, VA) April 24 2009-John Pew capped off a strong opening day for Michael Shank Racing on Friday at Virginia International Raceway as he qualified the No. 6 Ford-Riley 7th for Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 with a fast lap time of 1:43.119-seconds.
The strong qualifying performance came after Pew, who is making just his second Daytona Prototype start on the 3.27-mile natural terrain circuit, shaved several seconds off his times through the day as the Rolex Sports Car Series returned to race action following a three-month hiatus. Fellow Ford-Riley Michael Shank Racing pilot Mark Patterson will line up 13th on the grid after netting a fast lap time of 1:44.177-seconds.
After a productive test at Homestead in March, the positive momentum continued as the team opened up the day with both cars firmly in the top ten in the morning practice, and then returned to the track on Friday afternoon to take 1-2 in the second practice as Michael Valiante's fastest lap time in the No.6 just .009-seconds quicker than Negri's time in the No. 60. The third practice session saw another strong team performance, as Pew and Patterson's fastest times were also within tenths of each other at the sharp end of the sheets.
But the clock was reset once again for the 15-minute qualifying session, and Pew stepped up to the plate and came out swinging, setting a time that put him 4th in the order before his times were usurped. But his was no one lap wonder, as he came back with a faster lap of :44 flat to once again nab a top three spot. Yet another cycle of laps saw Pew shave another .9 of a second off that quick time to end the session in 7th.
"I'm excited!" said Pew after emerging from the iconic blue and black No. 6. "The car was just great and there was so much grip that I could push everywhere-under braking and in the esses. These Michael Shank Racing guys worked really hard today, and having Michael's (Valiante) voice in my head, coaching me, was a big help as well. I had a lot of confidence with the car, and the times kept coming down, and now I just can't wait for the race tomorrow."
After leading Pew in the 3rd session, Patterson conceded the qualifying round in his friendly but no less competitive inter-squad rivalry with Pew, although he was quick to extol Pew's strong performance.
"The car was actually quite good in the qualifying, and I was able to get even closer to going flat in the esses," said Patterson, who also shaved nearly 2 seconds off his own time during the session. "But my hat's off to John-what a fantastic set of laps he put together today. So far this weekend has been an extension from the speed we had at Homestead, so we are really looking forward to racing tomorrow after a very long wait between races!"
For team owner Mike Shank, Friday was a good reward for the months of planning, testing, and preparation for the VIR race weekend following the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"To have Michael and Ozz 1-2 in the afternoon practice, then Mark and John so close with their times in the next practice, and then to see John really step up in qualifying-this was a good day all around for us," said Shank, who saw his cars win the final two races of the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season. "But of course tomorrow is what matters, so hopefully we can set a good race pace, stay out of trouble, and maybe get lucky with any yellows we see. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out with strategy, but we're all just really looking forward to going racing again tomorrow."