Michael Shank Racing Takes Fighting Fourth at Watkins Glen Strong team effort nets fourth and sixth after hard-fought six hours (Watkins Glen,NY) 7 June 08 Oswaldo Negri emerged from a thrilling Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen race at Watkins...
Michael Shank Racing Takes Fighting Fourth at Watkins Glen
Strong team effort nets fourth and sixth after hard-fought six hours
(Watkins Glen,NY) 7 June 08 Oswaldo Negri emerged from a thrilling Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen race at Watkins Glen fighting to a fourth place finish with co-driver Mark Patterson on Saturday as the sister No. 6 Ford Riley of John Pew and Ian James completed a strong Michael Shank Racing team outing with a sixth place result.
Both team entries ran in podium contention for much of the six-hour race distance for the second endurance racing event of the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season. A late-race restart set the stage for a dynamic race finish as the lead ten Daytona Prototypes fought for positions in the final half-hour of the race and put on a fantastic show for the SPEED audience at home. Negri and James diced it up in several heated battles for positions before coming home in fourth and sixth.
"All of our drivers really pulled their weight for all six hours out there," said team owner Mike Shank. "Oz and Ian did over three hours each, and didn't put a wheel wrong. It was a very good weekend all around for us. We were in the fight all day, and Mark put in I think his absolute best stint ever, bringing the car into the pits in second place deep into the race. Just fantastic. And the cars don't really have a scratch on them, so we are ready to go for the test on Monday too. We were hoping to get back on the podium again, but this was a great race and should be good for us in the points as well."
The upstate New York six hour always provides surprises in the weather category, ranging from cold rainy races to Saturday's record-setting heat, and momentary rain shower adding to the challenge of the event.
"This was a perfect outcome after a truly exciting race," said Patterson, who kept the defending Series champions at bay while trying to find a way by the eventual race-winning Ganassi machine. "Oswaldo did another amazing job and I can't believe how strong he was up to the very last lap that he ran, even in this heat. The car was just fantastic, all day and just allowed me to do nearly everything I asked it to do. It was a pleasure to have the car that in tune. Those closing laps, if you weren't on the edge of your seat, check for a pulse because that was some spectacular racing!"
Negri looked set for a Glen podium return in the closing laps, but some GT traffic prevented that from developing as the 10 car made a muscle move to take the position after Negri had to slow for the GT.
"We got great calls from our engineers Dave and Jeff all day long and the car was just fantastic," said Negri. "I don't know how many laps we had on the tires at the end, but the car was still handling fine and I was able to fight to the checkered flag. We were hoping to be on the podium but I just got caught out in that traffic and Max shoved me out of the way. But it was some good close Grand Am racing and I knew he didn't have anything to lose. But we are trying to get everything we can in this championship so I had to keep that in mind. I have to also say that I am really proud not just of this team, but also of the job Mark did out there, he just keeps getting better and better."
The Pew/James entry not only had to fight competition and the ambient heat, but also the high cockpit temperatures as the helmet blower mechanism didn't operate initially in the early race stages.
"My first stint was really tough with the helmet blower not working in this heat, but my second time out there was much better," said Pew. "The car was really good, right out of the box. Ian did a great job and was fighting for everything we could get right to the finish and it was a lot of fun to watch that at the end. The team prepared the car perfectly, and to get another good finish like that is just going to help us keep moving up in the points."
James, who led over 20 laps of the race for the second year running, also raised some eyebrows with his strong moves through the field as he worked to make the most the 6 car had to offer, sometimes fighting in three-wide battles late in the race.
"It was a busy race out there for sure," said James. "The 60, the 10, the 61 and I were fighting everywhere, and then the 77 came in with fresher tires at the end to make it even more interesting. You had to keep one eye up front and one on your mirrors because everyone was right together. The team did a great job and the car was great. Even though we were in the fight, the car doesn't have a scratch on it after six hours of racing, so that's pretty amazing."
The team will remain in Watkins Glen to prepare for the August Rolex event by participating in Monday's Rolex open test on the short course layout.