TEAM NEWS: Negri and Patterson take podium at Laguna

Photo by John Thawley Pew delivers strong debut with Michael Shank Racing

(Monterey, CA) 20 May 2007--Michael Shank Racing finished third and seventh with the two team Lexus-Riley entries in the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday. The finish is the best combined team result of the 2007 season to date for Michael Shank Racing.

Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri climbed to the podium for the first time since taking a win in the season-ending 9 Hour Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park last year. Despite having an eventful race from the drop of the green flag, 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 kept Negri and Patterson from getting the chance to improve late in the race after running in the top three and allowed the race winner to barely stretch the 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," said team owner Mike Shank. "John (Pew) 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 opened 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," said Patterson. "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."

Patterson's next remark proved prescient.

"I really think Oz is going to like this car."

He liked it indeed, rejoining the field in seventeenth and working 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 (Patterson) and for all the effort and support he puts into this team," said Negri. "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.

"We lost a lot of grip with the damage to the wing, and that's pretty important around here, but the car was still pretty quick," said James. "John (Pew) did a good job today and I was able to keep making up ground even though we got bumped around a lot."

The Laguna race marked Pew's Rolex Sports Car Series debut with Michael Shank Racing, and the Florida resident got off to a flying start.

"I had fun out there," said Pew. "The car didn't handle that well, but I had some good battles going on and of course Ian really drove the wheels off the thing. I just wanted to get some seat time and get as comfortable as possible this weekend and I was able to do that no problem. This is a great team, and I'm looking forward to the Glen in a few weeks' time."

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