July 19, 2009

Valiante and Pew take third in Birmingham

(Birmingham, AL) 19 July 2009— After starting from tenth on the grid, John Pew drove an outstanding opening stint with the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley to move up to 4th in the order before turning the controls over to co-driver Michael Valiante, who fought with the lead pack in a thrilling late-race battle to take third place in the Porsche 250 presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday.

The podium result is the third for Michael Shank Racing at Barber Motorsports Park, and the second consecutive 3rd place finish at the Alabama facility for Pew as the Rolex Sports Car Series staged round eight of the 2009 season. The result also marks the seventh consecutive top-ten result for the No. 6 so far this season.

“It’s great to be back up on the podium again here at Barber,” said Pew. “I was pretty happy with the start of the race and Michael did a great job at the finish once again. The car was really good-there wasn’t much grip of course, but at least the balance was good and the car was consistent. I had a little bit of contact with the Banner car right at the end of my stint. I went on the inside and I just don’t think he knew I was there but at least the car wasn’t hurt too much and Michael was able to pick off where I left off.”

A full-course caution with just under 20 minutes remaining set up a three way battle for the lead as the 99, 01, and Valiante-driven Ford/Riley weaved through GT and lapped traffic looking for any advantage. While the Canadian staged one breathtaking assault on the 01 machine, he had to play the better part of valor and rescind the spot in the next corner before coming home a close third at the finish.

“I had lot of chances to pass Pruett, but he was taking a lot more risks than I expected him to and there were certainly some opportunities that I could have taken, but would have likely meant we would have both been knocked out,” said Valiante. “It was a really exciting battle and hopefully the fans enjoyed it. We were all good in different parts of the track. John drove a fantastic race once again and again we had a car that was fast enough to win, but there was just no clean way by on this track today. You had to be smart out there. It’s great to get back up on the podium and hopefully we can do it again at the Glen.”

The sister No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley of Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri recovered from a 60-second pit lane procedure penalty to finish sixth for the second race in a row. Like Pew, Patterson also got a fast start to the two hour and forty-five minute race as he moved from eleventh on the grid up into the top five before turning the machine over to Negri.

“The tire wear wasn’t the only issue, because every time you went off line to pass GT traffic, you also had to deal with the pick up on the tires and it would take at least a lap to get off the car--I almost drove into the crowd at one point!” said Patterson. “Ozz ran some incredible times on very old tires before the pit stop, so it was a shame to have the penalty set us back. Congratulations to John and Michael as well on the day ”

Negri began another of his trademark charges through the field, moving from 13th in the order on his way to the top-five once again. But before he could convert that into a return to the podium, the subsequent pit stop saw the team penalized for a procedural penalty. But despite going a lap down to serve the penalty, Negri kept fighting, recovering to take sixth in the closing moments before the checkered flag.

“The guys did a great job again this weekend,” said Negri. “Mark had a great start and we were on track for a very good finish. But these things can happen (penalty) and all we can do is focus on how good our car was all weekend. We have had podium cars all season long, but just need to get a break to go our way to do it. It’s been frustrating, but we know that it will turn our way soon. Hopefully at the Glen!”

The double-top six finish was the second such team result in as many Rolex Sports Car Series events, although Mike Shank is driven to look for even more in the future.

“John (Pew) drove one of the best stints I’ve ever seen him do,” said Shank. “We had a great start to the race and it was a shame what happened in the pit stop because we could have had both cars there fighting for the podium. But my hat’s off to the 6 car guys because they called a great race, and John and Michael were really strong today. The luck wasn’t what we were hoping for in the 60, but the speed certainly was, so that’s what we’ll focus on for the Glen.”

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