Michael Shank Racing thirteenth at VIR (Alton, VA) 23 April 06--Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri finished an unlucky thirteenth in the VIR 400 for round five of the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series season in the Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley.
Michael Shank Racing thirteenth at VIR
(Alton, VA) 23 April 06--Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri finished an unlucky thirteenth in the VIR 400 for round five of the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series season in the Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley. The race got off to a strong start, as Patterson shot like a cannon from sixth on the grid to take fourth by the end of the first lap.
"There wasn't as much grip as there was this morning in the warm up, which made things a little extra interesting in the first few laps," smiled Patterson. "The guys on the front row were incredibly patient at the start, so we had a good-looking and safe start. Fortunately, some of the cars around me didn't quite get the same start as I did, so I was able to get a couple spots right out of the box. Even though there was a very tight pack up at the front, it was unbelievably clean racing."
Patterson more than held his own in the opening stint, warding off challenges from several very experienced drivers before turning the car over to Negri during an early race caution period. Negri rejoined in twentieth before predictably making his charge to the front, working the Flight Options Riley back into the top five by the thirtieth lap.
"I still can't believe that people overlooked Oz to drive their cars," remarked Patterson as he watched Negri put on another passing clinic on the 3.27-mile natural road course. "But, that worked out well for us..."
A yellow flag regrouped the field as Negri was now in command of second position behind the fellow Lexus-Riley of the Ganassi entry. On the restart, Negri held station for nearly fifteen laps in second position, before pitting to take on the fuel needed to make it to the finish.
Things were looking good for a second top-six finish of the weekend for the team, but after a full course caution regrouped the field once again, an incident on the restart changed the outcome of the race significantly for Michael Shank Racing.
On the restart, Negri was blocked by one car, but still managed to pass a second car as the field slipped through turn one. Unfortunately, the competitor either didn't see the bright orange Flight Options machine, or was disappointed with the situation, and made contact with Negri several times through the complex of corners, knocking bodywork into the path of the left rear Hoosier tire, cutting the tread and forcing Negri back into the pits for a new set of slicks.
"It's a shame because we were almost exactly where we wanted to be," said Negri, who posted the fastest lap of the race weekend in practice on Friday. "I don't know how it was that he broke the back of my car, because he hit me on the side, but he just kept banging and I had to come in because I could feel the tire was going down."
"It was a great battle with a bad outcome," said Patterson after the race.
The thirteenth place result will score points for the team toward the championship, as will the points Negri scored for taking sixth in the qualifying race on Saturday, so the team will keep fighting to keep up momentum in the championship.
"It is too bad what happened with Oz, because we obviously had a good car, and there was a great battle for the lead late in the race, so he probably would have been in the thick of that if we didn't have to make that extra pit stop," said team owner Mike Shank. "But that's racing. Our car is pretty banged up from everyone hitting us-front, side, and back, but nothing serious, so we'll be packing up and getting ready to head to Laguna."
Negri and Patterson will race again in two weeks, at the famed Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. The race was the site of the duo's Rolex Sports Car Series debut together last year, as the rest of the field will be gunning for Negri's record-setting pole qualifying time from last year.