Monday, January 30, 2012

Rolex 24 at Daytona Race Recap

Michael Shank Racing Wins 50th Rolex 24 at DaytonaDaytona Beach, FL (29 January 2012) - With the world watching, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian made history as the team won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season. John Pew, Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, and Justin Wilson drove the No. 60 LiveOn Ford-Riley to a 5.198-second victory after completing a DP-era record 761 laps at Daytona International Speedway.

Bolstering the storybook victory was the strong finish of the team’s sister No. 6 Ford-Riley DPG2 entry, which finished third with Michael McDowell, Felipe Nasr, Jorge Goncalvez, and Gustavo Yacaman fighting back from two laps down to finish less than one minute behind the winning car after 24 hours of racing.

From the huge assembly of previous winning cars and drivers on hand, the biggest crowd in the event’s history, the debut of the new Daytona Prototype machines, a huge GT Class field, Sir Jackie Stewart calling the race start, and another Rolex 24 field deep with international talent, the race held high expectations. And with 49 lead changes among 53 drivers, a record race distance covered, and a battle that ran at an unrelenting pace right to the finish, the event fully lived up to those expectations as Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian won the race for the first time in team history.

“It’s just indescribable,” said Team Owner Mike Shank about the hugely popular win. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just so happy to be here - just thankful for the guys that do all the work for us, that hung in with us for those years and it all paid off today. 50th anniversary - it doesn’t happen but once. I always feel like I have to prove myself every step because I came from nothing more or less, and it’s because I've had great relationships with people like Ozz and John Pew that have really taken our business to another level.”

Ozz Negri qualified the Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian No. 60 entry sixth on the grid and the Ford-powered Daytona Prototype dominated most of the race running in the top-three throughout the majority of the event. The team led a total of 249 laps with Wilson pacing the field for 92, Allmendinger for 90 and Negri for 67. Allmendinger has led laps in each of his seven Rolex 24 starts with Michael Shank Racing.

McDowell put the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian entry eighth on the grid and the squad immediately set a strong pace - running in the top-five throughout much of the event. Despite the significant youth of the line-up, all four drivers looked more like veterans, pacing lap after lap with strong times while staying out of trouble through the frantic race start, long night, and endless GT traffic. Falling two laps down after completing the needed brake updates through the running, the team used shrewed strategy from the pit box and great pace from the drivers to be on the lead lap for the closing stages of the race.

Both Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian cars ran a near perfect race with each entry leading laps and never going behind the wall for repairs as the Shank squad’s elaborate preparation for the historic event paid off in a big way. The race was the ninth outing in the fabled Rolex 24 At Daytona for the team, and the huge result was one that left fans, media, and even the competition roundly pleased as the team broke through on the biggest stage yet.

Ozz Negri, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “It's a cool way to start the year, man. A very cool way to start the year. You know, being with Mike for such a long time, what makes it special is that he wants to win as bad as I do. It's just so cool, also, to have a fiery AJ, a very calm and fast Wilson, and John Pew on the team. I think we had a dream team this year.

It's the best place to start, right? We've got to keep working, keep working hard throughout the year and take every race at a time. We did our homework for this race. We talked a lot about how we wanted the car for the race, and we made it happen. We as a group, we will be working pretty hard this year.”

John Pew, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “It means a lot to me. Dealing with Mike since 2006, I think it was 2006, he's a great guy to deal with on a business level, personal level, and as a race team owner. He's a straight shooter. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, which I like. There's no second-guessing, and he says what he says and he means what he says, and I really like that.

He's taken this team a long way since I first started with this team, and he wants to do things right and he wants to win. He's very competitive, and I really love that. He puts pressure on me, too, which I really like. I've got to be fast, or he's not going to let me stay in the car much. So I've got to really work on it, and I like it that way. I don't want to just go out there and drive laps for the hell of it.

I feel really lucky to drive with these guys, AJ, Justin and Ozz. I've known for a while. These guys are great people and they're fantastic driver, some of the best in the world, and I learn a lot from them. I get to look at their data on their race car and see what all their speed secrets are, and they're free to share it. It's been a really great experience.

And Ozz has been a great co-driver for the last few years and a great coach. And when we're not at the racetrack, we're at the go-kart track and he's showing me things there. We work really hard at it and we take it really seriously and I appreciate the seriousness that he takes it.”

A.J. Allmendinger, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “The last seven years this whole team, Mike Shank Racing, went through a lot to get to this point, and it's really cool not only to win the race but to have two cars on the podium, to have really all the guys that have worked really hard. It's the same group of guys that I've seen for the last seven years, Oswaldo can attest to that and Justin can attest to that, that it's a small group of guys that Mike puts together, and they work their butts off, and it's really cool this year to have them get a well-deserved victory and a second car on the podium. I feel very fortunate. This is one of the reasons why I love this race, because it really kicks off Speed Weeks. It's such a prestigious race. It's one of those races you want on your résumé and you want to say that you were part of a victory.

Mike did a good job. He changed the driver lineup, said I was going to be in the car last, and gave me seven, eight hours to rest while Ozz and Justin had to do all the work in the middle of
the night into the morning. I knew that every lap I had to just drive my butt off, every single lap. And I honestly feel like -- I never try to give myself a ton of credit, but I feel like that's some of the best three hours of driving I've ever done in my life, just every lap, whether it was being aggressive, whether it was trying to dodge GT traffic, I felt like that might be some of the best three hours of driving I've ever had in my life.”

Justin Wilson, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “Hopefully this is the start of a good season. You know, we were joking about that before the race, win this one and move on, win St. Pete, and who knows, maybe the 500. We've just got to take it one step at a time. I think we've got a good opportunity this year with Dale Coyne Racing and with the Honda engine. I think we do our homework and we do some good testing, we'll be in with a shout once we can still compete with the Ganassi guys.

We just have to work it out. I think it's going to be an exciting year. I'm really looking forward to it. This is a great opportunity and a chance to really build something, and hopefully win a few more races.

It's just a different driving style, and the cool thing is you're challenging yourself trying to work that out, trying to pick those up and use everything that you've learnt and possibly know about driving in this one race. Whether it's positioning yourself through traffic or dealing with the car when it gets loose and trying not to lose too much time, there's just lots of little things that are constantly happening. In these cars, they're so sensitive, if you downshift a fraction too late, the weight of the car is going to take over and you're not going to make the corner. You've got to be on your game the entire time.”

Michael McDowell, No. 6 Ford-Riley: “What's cool about my situation is this is really where I started my professional career was in GRAND-AM. I was in the Rolex Series for two years prior to moving over to stock car. So my transition is actually kind of backwards from what most guys do. They have a good successful career in NASCAR and then come over and race GRAND-AM. What I love about it is I grew up road racing, loved open wheel, loved sports car, and just the cool places, cool venues we get to go to and great racetracks.The thing that keeps you coming back to this event is you don't have a watch yet. It's what keeps bringing you back. But it's a great event, and it's become really an all-star race with just great drivers from every series and world.

I felt like the old man in the group. But it was just great. These guys not having a lot of experience in endurance cars doesn't make them any less capable of running well and having patience and doing the things that we did in this race. More it was just running through scenarios and just telling them how to prepare for the GT traffic and just walk through it.”

Jorge Goncalvez, No. 6 Ford-Riley: “Short racing in Indy Lights, and right here you have a little bit of pressure because you have the whole team pushing you, so you have to be fast and give the car to the other guys and don't crash. So I think we all did a really good job. Nobody crashed the cars and then it go to the guys. That's why we are on the podium, I think.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 6 Ford-Riley: “It's been great. I'm surprised to be here with these guys right here. I think we all did a good job. For my first ever time doing a 24, I'm surprised, I need to say. It was an unbelievable experience for me, and I just can't wait to come back here in the next years.”

Gustavo Yacaman, No. 6 Ford-Riley: “It's a long race and a lot of complicated things happened. They had a lot of problems. We had a flawless race. Michael Shank did an amazing job preparing, getting ready both of the cars. We had no mechanical failures. We had no driver mistakes. Ozz Negri was, as well. He guided me through the team and everything. I really want to thank them, too, because thanks to them, I think we had the result that we had today, especially Ozz. Obviously we had more contact and more time together, explain how the car works, explaining situations.

You know, I had probably 1,000 questions to ask Mike before the race started, and he answered them all in one email. It was a seven-page email, but he answered them all. Everything was really clear. I think we were all -- I wasn't nervous at the beginning of the race. I knew what I had to do. I knew in case of emergency what we needed to do. If I had a flat tire, I knew exactly what we needed to do if I had a flat tire.I think it's preparation and being cool-headed, and also, you know, a little bit of luck. At the end of the day, it's 24 hours, and a lot of things can happen, and you need to have some luck.”

Credit - Michael Shank Racing

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Set for 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL - Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will look to kick off the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship this weekend at Daytona International Speedway with a strong result in the much anticipated 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Making its ninth appearance in the 24-hour endurance classic, the team has fielded a multi-car campaign in every Rolex 24 event since 2006 and is well-prepared for the historic 50th running of the race. Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will again field two Daytona Prototype entries this year and boasts one of its strongest driver line-ups to date.

The team welcomes back NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger and IndyCar racer Justin Wilson as the pair joins GRAND-AM series regulars Ozz Negri and John Pew in the No. 60 Daytona Prototype.

The No. 6 Ford-Riley will be shared by an international driver line-up which includes NASCAR driver and Rolex 24 veteran Michael McDowell (United States) and three young drivers who will make their Rolex 24 debut: Jorge Goncalvez (Venezuela), Felipe Nasr (Brazil), and Gustavo Yacaman (Colombia).

The team’s best finish in the event came in 2006 when Allmendinger, Wilson, Negri and Mark Patterson co-drove the No. 60 machine to a second place finish.

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian knows what it takes to survive the Rolex 24 having fielded a three-car effort last year. In an impressive performance from the team, all three cars never went to the garage and all three machines were still running at the end of the 24 hours with the No. 23 Ford-Riley finishing on the lead lap just off the podium in fourth after a strong late-race charge for third.

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian has been working countless hours as the team prepares for the twice around the clock event in hopes that the efforts pay off with a solid showing from both cars and that 2012 will be their year to earn the Rolex 24 title.

“The team has been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks,” said Shank. “We’re as ready as we can be and we’re eager to get going. I’m very proud of the effort this whole team has put in, and I’m very excited about our chances this year. We’ve got an exciting line up of guys, and we know that this race will be as much about performance as it will be about patience. ”

The event opens with practice on Thursday followed by Daytona Prototype qualifying at 3:45 PM (ET). The green flag will drop on the 24-hour race at 3:30 PM (ET) on Saturday with SPEED carrying full flag-to-flag coverage. The opening seven and a half hours as well as the closing seven hours of the event will be televised on the SPEED channel while will have live streaming during the overnight hours.

MSR with Curb/Agajanian Rolex 24 DRIVER QUOTEBOARD:
Ozz Negri, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “I think we accomplished what we needed to at the test and me and (engineer) Dale (Wise) working together for the second year I think we’ll be good. He knows what I want and he knows what to do with the car and Shank is always spinning 100mph, which is good to have a guy like him because he’s really motivated all the time and pumping us up and guiding us right to what we need and what he wants and we have to deliver what he wants. John improved a lot, and I think he’s going to get another jump again this year. I’m really excited.”

John Pew, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “I feel really lucky to be on this team. To have Ozz (Negri) as a partner and now with AJ (Allmendinger) and Justin (Wilson) - it really gels right. I’m excited about it and kind of humbled about it too. It’s going well. It’s not a hard car to drive and I think we’re making progress on the car and I think we’ve got a good racecar. You have to get ready physically and mentally. I did some karting and biking over the last couple of weeks and now I’m just rested and ready to go.”

AJ Allmendinger, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “We learned some stuff at the test so overall I’m pretty pleased. We know the Chevys are going to be fast. I think the SunTrust car might be the car to beat as of right now. You never know when you come back. Going into the race all you hope for is a car that is close enough to win and then you just pray everything goes right. So we’re definitely going to have the speed now we just have to do the right things and hope for some more.”

Justin Wilson, No. 60 Ford-Riley: “I’m looking forward to the race. The key is working out some of the changes we made and making sure we really understand and know what we’re doing. The conditions change so much. The temperature changes - obviously the middle of the night is much colder than the middle of the day so it’s just getting a good handle on that so we can attack in every condition and situation and I think we’ve made some good changes on the car that allows us to do that.”

Credit - Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Press Release