The Inside Line: Michael Shank
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Michael Shank Racing team owner Mike Shank recently took a short break from preparations being made for the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season to talk about his team's progression after moving from open-wheel sprint car racing to the Rolex Sports Car Series.

Shank, who twice won Team Owner of the Year accolades in Atlantic competition, saw his team score another honor as their breakthrough win in the SunChaser 2006 season-ending race at Miller Motorsports Park was named as the Rolex Moment of the Year after fans selected the win over nine other eligible memorable moments.

The 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season will un-officially get underway with testing at Daytona in November, but despite taking the final checkered flag of the 2007 season just a few weeks back, the Columbus-based squad is already deep in preparations for the upcoming season.

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How did you get into Rolex in the first place?

We'd been competing in the Toyota Atlantic Series for several years, but they were suffering through a bit if a downturn and the fact was, I had to go race somewhere else just to keep my guys doing something. We raced Renaults for a bit, kept a few race-prep projects going, and then in late 2003 I started looking at going endurance racing. The timing was good because the category was just blossoming and even though there were some established teams already, we were able to learn just like everyone else.

Is it true you mortgaged your house to buy the first Daytona Prototype?

Yes! (w/ a laugh) My wife Marybeth and I took a pretty big flyer when we made that decision. All we'd ever done was sprint racing, and so this was all completely new to me and my guys. We showed up at the 24 with thirteen gusy, got some support from Kevin (Doran) to figure out the car, and just went from there.

David Pijot at Suntrust helped me out big time. That was quite a gamble, but we had a decent season-we finished the 24 in 4th and then got on the podium a couple times with Oz (Negri) and Burt (Frisselle). We had that horrible crash at VIR and didn't think we were going to make it through that first season, but we did. It was a huge strain, but we made it to the end and then Paul (Mears) came on board and we never looked back.

You've had several gentleman drivers since joining Rolex.

We've been lucky, no question. We've raced with some good guys. Paul (Mears) was a blast-this was purely something he did for fun, and he went about it with a fun attitude. He hated the technical stuff-and he'd tell you that-but he loved anything high speed. He was good at the Glen.

He didn't complain much. I remember once at the Glen instead of telling me his car was crazy loose, he just said I think I'm the only guy turning left through there&.' He was talking about turn one!

Then we rented that car for Mark (Patterson) at Laguna, and Oz got the pole and we finished in the top ten. So when Mark came on board full time, we grew to a two car team and were able to hang on to Oz. That transition was a critical one for this team-growing but keeping our quality of preparation and depth of talent consistent. Mark joining us full time was a huge part of that, he really helped push this organization to be a race winner in Rolex.

He won the Trueman Award last year and I think he's the fastest gentleman out there. Except maybe for John (Pew)! John was a real surprise for us, I have to admit. But he stepped up big time this year with a couple really strong qualifying efforts, and he just got better and better every race out. I think Mark has set the standard as far as a good model to follow for guys like John-taking positive steps forward every session, every race weekend. And progression to where you are running ahead of Mark Martin like Mark did at Iowa! Hopefully we'll get the chance to work with John Pew more in the future.

Ian (James) was another big surprise. We knew he'd won the ALMS P2 championship, but he'd been doing a lot
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