Q and A with Michael Shank With two wins in the final two races of 2008, Michael Shank Racing team owner Mike Shank is looking to keep the strong team momentum going in 2009. After a productive Roar Before the 24 with a highly potent driver line-up working the two team Ford-Riley combinations through their paces, Shank took a moment to look ahead to next weekend's race. Shank will once again oversee a double Daytona Prototype entry in the 47th annual twice around the clock classic. The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley will be shared by John Pew, Michael Valiante, Ian James, and AJ Allmendinger, as the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley will see Mark Patterson joined by Oswaldo Negri, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Colin Braun.
You ran the race yourself as a driver with Sam Hornish Jr. back in 1999. Is that a big help? Small help? Does it matter?
It was a big help the first time we went down there for the first time as a team in 2004 because we were all a little unsure of what to expect, so at least I'd experienced this race first hand before. And that background that I have as a driver myself still helps me in terms of being able to speak that same language as the drivers we have now. But with five Rolex 24's now under my belt as a team owner, I rely more on the experiences and lessons we've learned as a team than what I learned as a driver in this race.
Compare where you are with this program in 2009 to when your team first competed there in 2004.
We were just coming out of Atlantics (in 2004) and the sprint racing format, and we just didn't know what to expect. From a preparation point of view, it doesn't matter what the format-sprint or endurance racing-you have to deliver a car that will go the race distance as fast as it can and still be reliable. We knew that from day one.
But we've matured so much as an organization since then, and keep improving on the subtle elements that are the difference between just being in these races, and being in a position to win one of them.
When we came down to Daytona the first time (2004), it was based a lot on the faith that Marybeth and I had in what Grand-Am was doing, and the vision for the future that Jim France and Roger Edmonson had for the sport. This is our sixth consecutive attempt at this race and we've been fortunate to grow into a two-car team that is strong with both our cars. And have really great drivers with us. People I think might underestimate how strong John Pew and Mark Patterson are in the car, and it's amazing to me how close they get to our pro guys even though they started in the sport so late in their lives. So we're really focused on taking the success we had with the two wins last year and just building on that starting next weekend.
What has this race meant to your team?
We made it to the finish of this race in 2004 (4th in Daytona Prototypes) and that was huge, just to run like we did for the full distance despite the rain and some big learning curves we faced, it was a big thing to have our car come across the line at the end.
Getting on the podium in 2006 was a big highlight and of course starting with both cars on the front row last year was tremendous. But that's not what we set out to do, be up front at the start. We want to do that at the finish.
How does this race look to stack up this year?
This is going to be the most competitive Rolex 24 ever. The teams have deep driver line-ups, there are more Ford motors we are going to be racing against, and everyone has that much more experience so it's just going to be a matter of setting a pace and keeping out of that garage.
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