Michael Shank Racing stages dual comeback at VIR Both entries take top ten as No. 60 machine moves to third in Rolex championship standings (Alton, VA) 27 April 08 --Both Michael Shank Racing entries had strong finishes in the Bosch...
Michael Shank Racing stages dual comeback at VIR
Both entries take top ten as No. 60 machine moves to third in Rolex championship standings
(Alton, VA) 27 April 08 --Both Michael Shank Racing entries had strong finishes in the Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR on Sunday as John Pew and Ian James teamed in the No. 6 Ford-Riley to come home fourth while Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri combined to move to third in the unofficial Rolex Team Championship standings with a ninth place result.
The two hour and forty-five minute event saw an early yellow flag, which sent much of the field to the pits, but both MSR cars remained on course, setting the stage for a three-way Trueman Award battle at the front with James and Patterson looking to usurp last weekend's winner Jim Matthews from the lead.
After an entertaining dice up front, both Michael Shank Racing cars took to the pits before the Grand-Am mandated 45-minute mark, with James strapping into the No. 6 as Negri took the helm of the No. 60 machine.
Despite the encouraging early laps, both drivers soon found their work cut out for them after a pair of external events set them back. For James, an airgun failure kept him in the pits longer than he'd hoped, and for Negri, a call from the engineers stand to verify his feeling that a tire was going down forced him into the pits for an extra pit stop, putting him a lap down.
"The car was just great up until that last yellow," said James. "I was really fighting it at the end, but up until then the car was very racey and I made a lot of passes with it. The team strategy was spot-on, really well executed, and John (Pew) got things off absolutely on the right foot at the start for us as well, so it was a good weekend. I was hoping to be able to keep it in contention for a podium, but this is still a great result."
The VIR race weekend is the final track of the season where Pew didn't have any significant previous Daytona Prototype experience ahead of the event. Despite his only getting a pair of sessions to learn the 3.27-mile circuit, he responded well--setting the fastest time in the Saturday Trueman Award session before netting eleventh in qualifying.
"This is starting to feel good," said Pew after adding another track to his Daytona Prototype racing resume. "We were hoping for a podium, but fourth is a great result and really helps us out in the championship standings. Ian did another great job, one of the best races I've ever seen him run. Now I am looking forward to getting to Laguna and the rest of the tracks this season where I already have experience, and hopefully that will help put us in this position more often."
The up-front dice among Trueman Award combatants was soon broken up by a bevy of anxious entries looking to muscle their way to the front.
"The on-track behavior of some of the Daytona Prototype drivers was pretty disappointing in some spots, but it was great to run up front and battle with John (Pew) and Jim (Matthews) after the restart," said Patterson. "These two-day events really reward teams that unload cars with the right set up because you only have so much time to improve on these weekends. Even though we weren't entirely happy with what we had yesterday, fortunately we speculated what the track was going to be like and made some significant gains for today. Oz drove a heck of a race and it's great to move to third in the championship standings as we look ahead to the race at Laguna Seca, which is a special place for me having made my first Daytona Prototype start there."
Negri put in a big effort to pass the leader and then take off from the pack to move back into top-ten contention.
"I was really frustrated when the 59 car spun right in front of me because I had to come to a complete stop and I lost so much ground, but it was just another part of the day where we were playing catch-up after the tire went down," said Negri. "I wanted to be careful with the leader and not mess up his race, but at the same time I wanted to get by to get my lap back so I had to pick my spot and once I got past him, I was able to take off and work back into the top ten. It was a lot of work! But I also kept the championship in my mind the whole time. Obviously we were hoping to finish better than ninth, and had the car to do that, but this was a great comeback to take another top ten and I'm happy to be back to third in the points."
"Considering some of the things we had happen to us, this was a pretty good day for us in the end," said team owner Mike Shank. "Ian drove I think the race of his life, and Oz had to pass the leader from a lap down and from there he just took off, so they both put in some strong performances for us. The big thing for us is that both cars moved up in the championship and the 60 moved back up into third, so now we'll be looking forward to Laguna Seca. We've got a podium and a pole there, so hopefully we can make the most of our trip out there next month."