Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian’s Day Ends Early at Brickyard

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From: Michael Shank Racing <media>

Subject: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian’s Day Ends Early at Brickyard

Date: July 27, 2012 8:40:32 PM EDT

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Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian’s Day Ends Early at Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS (27 July 2012) – Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian had been hoping for a big result with drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri when the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debuted at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday.

Those winning ambitions were fueled not only by the desire to show well on an exciting new stage, but that fire was also stoked by the fact that the Brickyard Grand Prix marked the final round of the North American Endurance Championship (NAEC). Michael Shank Racing won the season-opening Rolex 24, and the team looked to bookend the NAEC with another win at the Speedway.

After fighting through challenging conditions and showing remarkable speed to power to the lead, the hopes for the team were dashed after contact with a GT machine caused significant enough damage that the team was forced to retire from the race.

Pew started from ninth on the grid after posting a quick time of 1:23.944-seconds in the day’s earlier qualifying session. With a wet track greeting the yellow and green flag start on lap one, the track went green the following lap, with Pew once again showing a flair for wet running (as he had at Homestead Miami Speedway earlier this year), keeping the Riley on track despite a track that changed every lap.

Shortly into the event, the rain eased off and with the sun shining, the track quickly began to dry. Pew continued to run consistent laps at the controls of the No. 60 to run as high as second before the Shank squad called him to pit road for fuel, tires and a driver change.

“Every lap was different,” said Pew of the opening laps. “We started at zero visibility, unfortunately. Chris Wheeler was spotting for me and he was my radar up there. I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. We picked off some spots and I just soldiered on the best I could. Things were drying up and the (rain) tires were overheating. I was looking for water the whole time to cool them off and build up the pressure. We were losing grip everywhere; it was even difficult to come up on the banking flat. I did everything I could to give Ozz the car in one piece.”

Negri returned to the field just ahead of the leading Daytona Prototype and battled to stay on the lead lap but with the tires on the No. 60 not yet up to temperature, the leader got by and the LiveOn Ford Riley fell a lap down. However, Negri rallied back to fight through the 2.534-mile margin and get his lap back just before the team’s second pit stop.

Following quick pit work by the Shank team, Negri returned to the track third right before another big rain storm moved over the 2.534-mile circuit. As most of the Rolex Series field took to pit lane for rain tires, Michael Shank Racing once again delivered an impressive performance in the pits with the No. 60 Ford-powered machine returning to lead the field.

Negri maneuvered through the treacherous track conditions with great coaching from spotters Chris Wheeler and Barry Waddell with the on-track visibility worsening along with the rain.

Unfortunately the efforts of both the drivers and the team were thwarted when the No. 60 sustained race-ending suspension damage following the contact with the GT machine. Michael Shank Racing was forced to settle for an 11th place result.

“I really don’t know what to say – it was one of the worst extremes of my career,” said Negri of the emotional roller coaster of leading then having the race end so quickly. “My team did a phenomenal job on the strategy, on the pit stops, putting me P1. I came out of the pits and a car just hit me coming out of the pits. I think the No. 56 Ferrari just braked, aquaplaned, and went straight into me. And then going into Turn 5, one of the Dempsey Mazdas just went straight into me again. It’s just one of those things. Some of the cars stayed on track so they were still on slicks and I think that’s why both cars hit me. It’s just really, really frustrating. We were so fast in the morning and we were pretty fast in the race. We had to fight for positions, but I can’t say enough about the whole team for putting me up there. We will be looking for next year. We definitely needed a good result today.”

“It is unbelievably disappointing,” echoed Team Owner Mike Shank. “We had a great pit strategy. The guys did a great job – we won it in the pits. Ozz came out of the pits in P1 and he had done such a great job getting the car back from being a lap down. It’s just a massive disappointment. We had everything in place for the kind of result that our speed this morning–and all month long here at the Speedway–would be able to achieve. We all had such high hopes for the day so for it to turn out this way, it is just a really, hard one to take.”

Michael Shank Racing will next travel to upstate New York August 10-11 as the team returns to Watkins Glen for the short-course event which is staged as part of the NASCAR weekend at The Glen.

SPEED will carry live coverage of the event. Live timing and scoring can be followed throughout the day at www.grand-am.com.

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About Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Michael Shank Racing was formed in 1989 when Mike Shank first began driving racing cars professionally. Shank retired from the cockpit in 1997 to focus his efforts on running the team, which quickly found success in the Champ Car Toyota Atlantic Championship. With several race wins under his belt, Shank was named as Team Owner of the Year twice in four years. Michael Shank Racing joined the Rolex Sports Car Series in 2004 as the team proved as quick in endurance racing as in the sprint formula car format. Michael Shank Racing scored a debut Rolex Series win in 2006 at Miller Motorsports Park, and fans selected the victory as the 2007 Rolex “Moment of the Year.” After opening the 2008 season with a front-row sweep of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the team closed out the year taking wins in the final two races of the year.

The team scored a dramatic victory in the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012, and backed that race-winning effort up with a run to third place with the second team entry.

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Matt Cleary
Sunday Group Management
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For additional information: www.sundaymanagement.com, www.facebook.com/sundaygroup, www.twitter.com/Sundaygroup

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