Promising Pace with Fan Car at Petit Le Mans Does Not Deliver Hoped-for Result For Michael Shank Racing

Braselton, Ga. (4 October 2014) – As one of only two teams in the 52-car field that did not augment their driver line-up for the 10-hour Petit Le Mans enduro classic, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian knew they had their work cut out for them. But with two strong and fit drivers, encouraging performance in practice, and the hopes of hundreds of Michael Shank Racing fans whose photos adorned the Ford EcoBoost/Riley machine, the team was optimistic about closing the 2014 season on a high note.

From a starting position on the third row, driver Oswaldo Negri Jr. made a huge start, charging to third by the end of the first lap. Settling into the rhythm of the race, the team looked well positioned for the day, though Negri did report some shifting problems in the early laps.

Saturday’s cooler conditions definitely helped Ozz during his opening three-stint run.

“It’s cooler and obviously I’ve been training a lot for it,” said Negri, who spent last weekend on triathlon duty. “Mentally I think that will take a bigger toll on the drivers than physically; traffic is crazy out there! The car felt good though. The only problem I had was that we were mis-shifting when I went to downshift. I had to be very careful because when you’re going into a turn with a lot of speed and it’s just not the gear that you called for, it can be a bit scary.”

The shifting problems that Negri reported would continue to worsen over Pew’s double stint though he was able to keep the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Fan Car EcoBoost-Riley in the top-five throughout.

In the fourth hour, Negri re-entered the fray but soon thereafter, the gearbox issue became critical and the team called him to the pit box for repairs.

“As soon as I got in; I went into fourth gear and could hear a gear noise,” said Negri. “We definitely broke fourth gear. So we came in and changed the gear box. Once we were back in the race, I was able to keep up with the No. 01 car that was running in third at the time. At the beginning of the race I was pretty sure we had the pace for a podium finish and we were definitely able to keep up with the top teams.”

Negri and Pew continued to alternate time in the car, doing double-stints each until Pew took over for the final 45-minute run to the checkered flag.

Pew’s fitness level meant he still looked fresh after the race but of course, it took a toll.

“It was a long day!” Pew laughed after taking the checkered flag in his Petit Le Mans debut. “I needed a few more minutes in the car to meet the requirements so I got the last stint. Of course it makes you a little nervous; it’s pitch black out there and you’ve got to bring it home in one piece! There was a lot of stuff going on but we were separated from seventh place by at least a lap so we didn’t have to do anything crazy.”

Team owner Mike Shank took a pragmatic view of the race, particularly in the context of the season’s end.

“The first four hours went literally exactly how we wanted them to, but then we had an electrical issue that caused a shifting problem and it ruined our day,” said Shank. “I feel horrible. We were right on the pace where the No. 01 (Telcel Ford EcoBoost Prototype) was, more or less. It just wasn’t meant to be. It’s been a tough year. We made tons of progress. I’m really proud of what our team has done with Ford Racing and the progress we’ve made from Daytona until now. I’m looking forward to what comes next. I think the progress we’ve made is a sign of what we can still do, and that’s great.”

Petit Le Mans marks the final race of the 2014 IMSA-sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship but viewers have one more chance to catch the action, Sunday, October 5 on FOX (check your local listings).

Thank you to Ford Racing, Curb Records and the Curb/Agajanian group, AERO Paints, Roberts Service Group, the Rocky Fork Company, Cap and Associates, and CRC Industries for your support and partnership through this inaugural IMSA season.

Thank you as well to all the outstanding MSR fans and the entire Michael Shank Racing crew for all your tireless efforts, as well as the huge performances and never give up attitude from Michael Shank Racing drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, Justin Wilson, and AJ Allmendinger.

The 2015 season will kick off at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, January 9-11 at Daytona International Speedway.