After a strong run, leading the race for a time, a late race puncture dropped Ozz Negri and Michael Shank Racing out the lead battle for the Continental Tire 200 at The Glen.
The two hour race, the tenth round of the Rolex Series, was one of up and downs for Shank’s Rolex 24 winning team, riding out a penalty in the opening half of the race before a slice of luck with a full course caution gave Negri the lead.
Teammate John Pew started the #60 Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype and when the yellow flags appeared for the first time the team opted not to pit under caution with the other teams in the premier Daytona Prototype class, instead pitting as the green flag flew again. Though it cost them track position the stop put Negri, the pro-driver of MSR’s Pro-Am driver combination, in the car at the earliest possible opportunity, while Pew still completed the minimum stint time to collect full championship points. Unfortunately officials deemed the team’s pit crew left the pit wall early and added ten seconds to the stop.
The team’s slice of luck came when the caution flag reappeared after 35 laps – 45 minutes – of racing for debris. Much of the DP field pitted for their own driver changes, lifting Negri into the lead as their track position disadvantage was removed.
The Brazilian led for 24 laps across the halfway point of the race before the final round of stop with 40 minutes of racing remaining, when MSR’s race winning chances began to unravel. A slow stop left Negri down in second, but he was already struggling with a bigger issue.
“I radioed within a lap that something wasn’t right with the tire,” he said. “I was having to lift at the top of the esses and was only barely able to not crash the car through all those laps. Unfortunately, whatever was wrong with it eventually gave up and the tire went.”
The tyre finally gave up at turn ten, dropping Negri out of second place, eventually finishing in seventh place.
“I thought we were going to have a little change of fortune there,” said Pew after the penalty. “It was great strategy and the team got Ozz out there in the lead. But we just had some bad luck there with the tire. I’m not sure what happened with the tire–Just not sure what to say. We had a great car and we led a lot today, but it just wasn’t our day.”
“The strategy actually worked to our favor, but I was just really disappointed in the (penalty) call on our one stop,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We came back from that, led the race, and we were in good position for a podium finish. But, then we weren’t. We had a flat and that was it. That’s the end of the story. We’ve been in a position to podium almost every weekend now. But, then we’ve just had stuff like this happen. Despite the outcome, it was great work by the guys today. The flat tire just killed it for us, so we just rode it out and we’ll head to Montreal. It’s tough to take, but what a good day for Ford Racing.”
The race was won by fellow Ford-Riley runners, Starworks Motorsport, Negri’s puncture helping them score their first 1-2 result in Rolex Series competition.