TEAM NEWS: Michael Shank Racing finishes fourth in Sahlen's Six Hour, Sister entry comes home eleventh after both Michael Shank Racing entries lead at Watkins Glen
Photo by John Thawley (Watkins Glen, NY) 9 June 2007-- Ian James and John Pew finished fourth in the Shalen's Six Hours at the Glen after leading late in the race. Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri crossed the line in eleventh after also running at the front of the forty-five car field during different stages of the six-hour endurance event.
The result is the third consecutive fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen for Michael Shank Racing and marked the third consecutive top-ten finish for the No. 6 Lexus-Riley entry of James and Pew, which has now lead in three Rolex events thus far this season.
"Another solid day for us here at the Glen," said team owner Mike Shank. "Ian did a great job running up front, and it's a shame that Oz had that little problem with the alternator belt or else he would have also been in the top five no question. It was great to lead here and even run 1-2 at one point. I think this is a perfect way for us to set up for our home race at Mid-Ohio in a couple of weeks."
James started the race from thirteenth on the grid and moved up smartly through the pack before turning the car over to Pew, who after battling with legend Hurley Haywood, soon found himself running in close contention with Patterson in the top ten. The two have diced on-track in everything from formula cars to Rolex GT machines, and this was another chapter in the fun for Pew.
"It was great, I had a blast out there," said Pew. "We've raced inches apart in all kinds of cars, and I trust him completely. We had a good little dice going. He's quite good on this track and obviously has a lot of experience in these cars, so I picked some things up from him! Ian did a fantastic job, and I am really happy to be working with this team."
Pew then turned the Lexus-Riley back over to James, who worked his way to the head of the field by lap 128, and built a gap over the eventual race-leading machine before a recalcitrant GT car gave him grief.
"The Corvette ran me into the dirt and I lost all my momentum, so I was pretty much a sitting duck for the 99 car," said James. "But it was great to be up front and controlling the race today. This car was excellent on the long runs and our only weakness was how the car was on new tires, so it's a shame we didn't get more laps under green today. But even getting into the top six in this series is something to be happy about, so to take fourth today is something I think we can be happy about."
Oswaldo Negri started the race from ninth on the grid and moved up to lead the race before turning the car over to Patterson fifty laps into the race. Patterson has always been good at Watkins Glen, but his Six Hour performance on Saturday was the best he's ever shown at the track, setting times two seconds a lap faster than he ever had before, despite running on Hoosiers with nearly 100 miles on them.
After his stand-out performance, Patterson turned the car back over to Negri, who once again powered up to the lead by lap 127, leading teammate Ian James as the field slowed for one of nine cautions on the day. Unfortunately, Negri and Patterson's shot at another endurance victory was compromised after an alternator belt slipped, forcing him to pit an extra time and costing any chance at victory.
"Oz did a tremendous job today and it's just a shame we had that small little problem take us out of contention for a really great result," said Patterson. "It took a couple laps for me to get into a rhythm, but I got in behind Memo Gidley and just stuck off his back bumper and stayed with him. I really had a blast out there and am pretty pleased with the times we were putting up. The result wasn't what we wanted, but it wasn't due to a lack of trying from this team."
The close of the race proved even more frustrating, as a final stint of green flag running didn't provide the chance to move up that Negri was hoping for.
"I was frustrated by the 59 car and how unprofessional the driver was," said Negri. "I am even more disappointed and surprised that he wasn't penalized at all. But I had to keep our championship in mind and just try to get what we could out of the day."
Negri did indeed get would he could, making some breathtaking passes including a perfect pick of GT traffic to move up two positions in just one corner with the clock counting down to the end of the race.