INDIANAPOLIS (27 July 2012) - Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian had been hoping for a big result with drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri when the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debuted at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday.
Those winning ambitions were fueled not only by the desire to show well on an exciting new stage, but that fire was also stoked by the fact that the Brickyard Grand Prix marked the final round of the North American Endurance Championship (NAEC). Michael Shank Racing won the season-opening Rolex 24, and the team looked to bookend the NAEC with another win at the Speedway.
After fighting through challenging conditions and showing remarkable speed to power to the lead, the hopes for the team were dashed after contact with a GT machine caused significant enough damage that the team was forced to retire from the race.
Pew started from ninth on the grid after posting a quick time of 1:23.944-seconds in the day's earlier qualifying session. With a wet track greeting the yellow and green flag start on lap one, the track went green the following lap, with Pew once again showing a flair for wet running (as he had at Homestead Miami Speedway earlier this year), keeping the Riley on track despite a track that changed every lap.
Shortly into the event, the rain eased off and with the sun shining, the track quickly began to dry. Pew continued to run consistent laps at the controls of the No. 60 to run as high as second before the Shank squad called him to pit road for fuel, tires and a driver change.
"Every lap was different," said Pew of the opening laps. "We started at zero visibility, unfortunately. Chris Wheeler was spotting for me and he was my radar up there. I couldn't see two feet in front of me. We picked off some spots and I just soldiered on the best I could. Things were drying up and the (rain) tires were overheating. I was looking for water the whole time to cool them off and build up the pressure. We were losing grip everywhere; it was even difficult to come up on the banking flat. I did everything I could to give Ozz the car in one piece."
Negri returned to the field just ahead of the leading Daytona Prototype and battled to stay on the lead lap but with the tires on the No. 60 not yet up to temperature, the leader got by and the LiveOn Ford Riley fell a lap down. However, Negri rallied back to fight through the 2.534-mile margin and get his lap back just before the team's second pit stop.