Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian has never wavered from its ‘never give up’ mentality, and the team’s perseverance was on full display through the Petit Le Mans event weekend at Road Atlanta as the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship staged its last race of the 2015 Championship.
The final result of the race does not reflect the effort of the team over what was a very trying weekend that saw an extraordinary amount of rain at the track, but an even bigger amount of work that came from the squad with the never give up mantra.
The team returned to a three-driver line up for the 10-hour endurance race with 17-year-old Matt McMurry joining full season Michael Shank Racing drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew.
The weekend started out strongly for the Ohio-based team with Negri leading the first practice session. As the group worked to fine tune the No. 60 Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 through three practice sessions on Thursday, Michael Shank Racing soon faced a big hurdle after heavy rains during night practice saw the No. 60 machine aquaplane, hit the front straight wall, and sustain significant damage.
The strength of the Ligier kept Pew safe as he emerged from the car unscathed but the contact was significant enough to cause damage to the carbon fiber tub.
With the only extra Ligier in France, the team would have to repair it in order to take part in the Petit Le Mans event. Fortunately, the racing community came together in a special way when various teams throughout the paddock offered assistance.
Atlanta-based Elan Motorsports as well as members of the DeltaWing team jumped in to help late Thursday night and the tub was transported to their nearby shop. Members of both DeltaWing and Elan Motorsports worked through the night to repair the tub and miraculously had the car ready by eight Friday morning.
The Michael Shank Racing crew then performed a total rebuild of the car through the day and into the evening on Friday. The car was ready in time for the pre-planned fan autograph session Friday evening.
Instead of drivers offering their signatures, race fans were invited to sign the nose of the No. 60 that carried most of the #badasswilson livery that had been utilized in Texas at Circuit of the Americas.
The car was ready to go in time for morning warm up Saturday morning and Negri took to the track to shake it down. Heavy rains once again enveloped the circuit, causing a second aquaplane event as the car made contact with the wall in Turn 6. The hit wasn’t as significant as Thursday’s, but there was damage to the rear corner and the rear bumper which left the team scrambling to not only make the recon lap, but also to make final repairs on the grid during the fan walk.
The race went green and Negri opened the race with a double stint. The conditions on track were treacherous and Negri ran in sixth as he fought to simply keep the car on track with flowing puddles growing over much of the 2.54-mile road course.
Two hours into the race, Negri handed the car over to Pew. Much of Pew’s stint was run under yellow when track conditions worsened. He remained in the car for just over an hour until the No. 60 machine once again aquaplaned in Turn 6 under green flag conditions, almost identical to Negri’s warm up crash. Though this time, the damage was much worse and the team was forced to withdraw from the race.
“I can’t say enough about my team guys and their work ethic,” said Team Owner Mike Shank. “They never, ever give up and they just do whatever it takes. I just want to say thank you to them. An extra special thanks to DeltaWing and Elan Motorsports. So many people in the paddock offered to help us out. DeltaWing and Elan made it happen. There was no stopping this group, and I’m grateful for that. We’ll be ready for November for testing with our new Honda motor. I just can’t say enough about everybody that worked so hard to have this car on track today, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it.”
The race was later red-flagged and ended early due to the poor weather and track conditions.
Michael Shank Racing will be back to TUDOR Championship action in November for pre-season testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Ozz Negri: “When the rain started falling harder, our car was undrivable. We were aquaplaning on the straight and aquaplaning out of Turn 12. Exactly where John (Pew) had the incident in the race, you had to tiptoe through there and just hope that you can make it through the puddles in a straight line. When the rain stopped it was better, but I’m just bummed for the Michael Shank Racing guys because they worked very hard. They put the car together after the big practice crash Thursday night and then again after the off in warm up this morning. It would have been good to get a finish, but in these conditions it was almost a lottery out there to be honest. It was tough.”
John Pew: “The grip levels kept changing. Occasionally they’d have a yellow flag and come out and sweep the water off and it would be good for half a lap. On the backstraight it was completely blind. I saw a PC car go straight off there. There is a river that runs through there at Turn 6 (where the car went off) and it comes and goes. I’m really sorry to the guys because they worked incredibly hard. They worked all night, the Elan Motorsports guys helped us out immensely. It’s a terrible feeling to have a crash like that. This was our most trying weekend I think ever and I’m just sorry it didn’t turn out better. We’ve come back from worse. These Michael Shank Racing guys deserved better, but we’ll come back stronger next season.”
Matt McMurry: “It was nice to be back with all of the Michael Shank Racing guys again. It’s always fun being with them and I learn a lot from Ozz (Negri) and John (Pew). I thought we were going to be done two days ago with the tub damage, but it’s pretty crazy that this Michael Shank Racing group got it all fixed. The guys worked so very hard to get everything done and ready for today.”
Source. Sunday Group
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