Racers Amongst The Mist At NJMP
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© Andrew S. Hartwell

As the weatherman has been saying for days now, the rains have remained above the plains of Millville, home to the beautiful New Jersey Motorsports Park. While we can only hope for the weather to improve there is no uncertainty about the improvements made here since last - the inaugural - season. There is more grass, new grandstands and a continually improving racing facility that is doing all it can to combat the misty, wet and oh-so-damp conditions the racers and fans are dealing with today. And despite a prediction of a 70% chance of precipitation, the fans are still coming.
Wayne Nonnamakeris here, along with the whole Sahlen's Racing crew, as is the case at every Grand-Am race event. The fast and wide No. 43 Team Sahlen Corvette will be securely fastened under him in the feature race and he - like all the drivers here this weekend - is hoping the racing surface stays securely fastened beneath his car as well.

"We have a car we made a lot of changes to and in the dry we seem to be pretty competitive, unfortunately it is raining. I do think though that this is one of the better cars we have had for racing in the rain. We had a top 10 finish with the Mazda in the KONI Challenge race yesterday so I think we can continue that on today.

"We spent the last two and a half years taking the car out every time it rained and tried new suspension pieces and other things and I think we finally have it all figured out."

Did the testing in the rain translate into a steady business for the body and suspension 'manufacturers, we wondered?

"When you have to pay for them when you wreck them you get pretty motivated not to wreck!"

Like Team Sahlen Mike Shank Racing continues to be a vibrant part of the Grand-Am community, again fielding two Ford-Riley's with john Pew and Michael Valiante in the No. 6 car and Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson in No. 60. Valiante is optimistic despite the mist. "The weekend has been great for Michael Shank Racing. We were the quickest in all the sessions but this rain is a real challenge. My teammate John Pew has very little experience in the rain. He was really quick in the dry you never know what is going to happen in the rain. The windows don't fog up but once you get close to the other cars the spray makes it a real challenge."

Team Owner Mike Shank would prefer a dry run for his Ford-Riley's.

"We have been fastest in every session except qualifying. (Pew and Patterson qualified the cars 9th and 12th respectively). Mark just ran 7th fastest in this morning's practice session held in the rain. Both the cars are good. We just need to get through the first hour and we should be OK. Barring any big shunt we should do fairly well."

Sponsorship issues exist for racers everywhere, given the current global economic climate. Shank has long struggled to find the resources to bring his team's talent and experience to bear on the competition. Thankfully this season he is again able to say the funding is there to keep the MSR cars up to speed and competing for a championship.

"All I can say is that I feel very, very fortunate that, for now, doors are open for us, they are not closed. You can never tell for next year. The next two years will be a struggle to keep this thing together. All we can do is get results, like we did at VIR last weekend. We also ran strong at the Homestead tests and we are running strong again this weekend."

MSR has been a staple of the series for many years now. Mike Shank always seems to find a way to be here. We wondered how he felt about the evolution of the series and the apparently growing fan base.

"I think Grand-Am is stronger than many other series out there. It is certainly stronger than the ALMS, that is for sure. I was surprised to see how many cars are running in the IRL right now. I think we are status quo and down a bit, but given the circumstances we are probably a little bit up. It could ha