Homestead, Fla. (29 April 2012) – Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian finished Sunday’s Grand Prix of Miami seventh after the event ended early due to extreme weather conditions at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
John Pew opened the race from the front row after Saturday’s qualifying session was cancelled due to rain and the grid was set by championship points standings.
After GRAND-AM threw the green flag to launch the race clock for the 2-hours and 45-minutes race distance with a live SPEED Channel audience, the race opened in yellow flag conditions as the field circulated behind the pace car under heavy rain. But the yellow-inducing puddles on the track dissipated ahead of the green flag being thrown to kick off the race action.
Pew held his own in the opening laps as the field worked through the vision-robbing rain.
“It was utterly terrible out there,” said Pew. “For me visibility was the biggest problem. We had fogging on the windshield. It started to fog up when I was sitting waiting to go out for the start with the engine and everything off. Visibility was a huge issue. Going into the banking you couldn’t see anything — you were just doing it by feel!”
Pew fought among the leaders, but the vision issue caught him out as he elected to take evasive action rather than risk hurting the car.
“I just went long into Turn 1–I had to look to the side to see the brake zone and it was too late so it was either try to make it and possibly spin the car and cause some damage or go long so I elected to go long,” said the 2-time Pro-Am Champion. “Ending the race early kind of makes me angry because we came here to race and we were racing in similar conditions earlier so I’m not sure why they called it. We made a strategy call based on the race going the full distance.”
After a quick stop for a driver change, fuel and tires, Negri took to the track focused on taking the lap back. He was making great progress on that mission, clicking off laps that were the fastest on the track as he fought back from 23rd overall.
“I was pushing very hard – as hard as I could,” said Negri. “It was the least I could do with all the effort that the team has put forth. We had a fantastic car in the dry. I really think we could have fought for a podium finish if we had raced in the dry. And I think we had one of the best cars – if not the best car- in the wet. I was able to pass most of the field and chew quite a bit of the gap between me and the leader which was Ricky (Taylor) at the time. We tried everything strategy-wise to make up that lap and to be able to compete against some of the guys in front of us because I knew we were quicker.
But Negri never got the chance to make a final charge to the front as race officials announced that the race would end with 45 minutes still yet to go on the race clock.
“I was really looking forward to a restart, but it wasn’t meant to be,” said Negri. “This wasn’t what we wanted, but our momentum keeps going. We had a fast car and we are all working really well together as a team, with engineering and the pit stops, everything. We know it will come, so it’s frustrating not to have a better result today but we are just looking ahead to the next one.”
“It was a tough day,” said team owner Mike Shank. “I was happy with all the guys. Everybody did a good job– we just didn’t have enough race today. I’m happy, actually. I don’t think it was a bad performance day for us so I’m happy about that. Ozz had a great stint and made a bunch of time up to the leader. He did a great job. We knew that everyone ahead of us had to pit so we would have been in a much better position if the race had played out, but I don’t have any problem with the call that GRAND-AM made today. Obviously it would have been better for us, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out with strategy.”
Michael Shank Racing will be back in Rolex Sports Car Series action in two weeks at New Jersey Motorsports Park May 11-13. The team won at the track in 2008.