The hottest team in the Rolex Series this winter may just be the two-car effort of Michael Shank Racing, having posted the fastest times in the January test days, swept the front row at the Rolex 24 and gone fastest on Tuesday at Homestead.
The #6 machine led 119 laps of the Rolex 24 until mechanical troubles with just hours left in the race forced it out of the lead, with Oswaldo Negri playing a major part in its performance.
After the Brazilian posted the quickest time on both test days, the argument is no longer if the team can break through this season, but when.
“Our philosophy is that there are so many top notch teams here in the Rolex Series that you cannot blink,” Negri revealed, “That's what I told my engineer. If we keep doing the ordinary, we're going to be ordinary, so let's do whatever it takes to go get ahead of those guys. Last year, I would say, we were not up to speed with those guys, [but] I do feel that the Pirelli tyres are helping me a lot.”
One season ago, the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley spent the winter running quick times in tests and captured the pole at the Rolex 24. After a poor finish at the endurance race, the team rattled off a Rolex Series-record seven victories on the way to the team and driver championship with Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.
One difference between the two programmes at the time was that the GAINSCO team was still searching for their first Daytona Prototype win, where Michael Shank Racing had already been to victory lane at the 2006 season finale at Miller Motorsports Park.
“For sure, there are some parallels,” Negri said, “But we are not waiting on them; we're going to try and run away from them. We're thinking the lions are running after us, and that's the deal. I'm not sitting still. We can't underestimate anyone here and we'll just keep working hard with all of the Michael Shank Racing team.”