Michael Shank Racing finished third and seventh with the two team Lexus-Riley entries in the US Sports Car Invitational at Laguna Seca – the best combined result for the team during the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series season to date.
Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri climbed to the podium for the first time since taking a win in the season-ending event Miller Motorsports Park last year, while John Pew and Ian James combined for seventh at the end of the two hour and forty-five minute race, which ended with a Safety Car period.
The yellow flag prevented Negri and Patterson from getting the chance to improve late in the race after running in the top three and also allowed the race winners to barely stretch their fuel to make it to the end, something that would have been unlikely had the race finished under green flag conditions.
“This was a great performance from the whole team all weekend,” team owner Mike Shank reflected. “John did a good job in his first time out with us, and Ian ran a heck of a race. It was a shame the race ended under yellow, but it was still great to have Mark and Oz up on the podium once again. This is a big boost for us in the championship and we'll just take this momentum home with us and start getting ready for the Glen.”
Patterson started the race from twelfth on the grid as the field emerged largely unscathed from the tight turn one. The South African moved up to eleventh before brining the car in to swap driving duties with Negri under a full course caution.
“That was a really good car,” he said. “Even though it had a full fuel load, I could attack as if we were in qualifying trim and I felt really confident with it.”
Negri rejoined in seventeenth and worked his way solidly up the order and into the top three in the closing laps of the race, running within one second of the leader before the final yellow flag kept him from having a shot at the lead.
“This podium is for Mark and for all the effort and support he puts into this team,” the Brazilian said at the finish. “He never stops working and it pays off when we have days like we did today. The car was great all weekend from the moment we got on track, so I'm happy to get a result as good as our car was. We are staying focused on this championship and days like this are what we need as the season goes on.”
James, who raced in three of the four Grand-Am sanctioned races of the weekend, started from seventh on the grid but got hit on the very first lap, giving the Playboy-liveried Riley a new look, and a lot less downforce.