DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Even with the best laid plans, sometimes you have to call an audible.
Fortunately for the defending Rolex 24 At Daytona Champions Michael Shank Racing, the audible is an excellent play as the team has confirmed that NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose will join Michael Shank Racing for the 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona to drive the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley.
Ambrose, who impressed in testing with the team during the Roar Before the 24 over the weekend, will supplement the driving line up of AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, John Pew, and Ozz Negri as Negri continues to heal from an off-season testing injury.
The Roar testing proved productive for the Shank organization, as the team led five of eight practice sessions during the weekend between the two team Daytona Prototype entries.
“We couldn’t have been happier with how quickly Marcos gelled with everyone on this team,” offered Mike Shank. “Obviously he’s very fast in the car, but he was also great out of it. That’s hugely important for a race like this–you need to have everyone pulling in the same direction. He fits that perfectly. We are incredibly lucky to have someone like him interested in racing for us. Ozz is coming back quickly, but we wanted to go ahead and commit to having Marcos with us now.”
Negri will continue to push ahead with his physical therapy and expects to be able to compete in the 51st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. While he was frustrated not to be able to test the car this past weekend, he has his eyes on the bigger prize as the team looks to make it two in a row.
“The biggest thing for me is to not do anything that keeps this team from winning the race again,” said Negri, who suffered the leg injury while mountain biking. “It was hard to watch everyone test this weekend, but I still was very proud of the results. We’ve been working very hard on our set ups and it was good to see such a strong test. Marcos is a good guy and has the right attitude with this team. I’m happy to have someone like him as my teammate and hopefully I can contribute to another big result in a couple of weeks.”
Ambrose has previous experience in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and with the NASCAR Preseason Thunder kicking off this weekend, is getting plenty of seat time on both the oval and the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona Int’l Speedway as he prepares to kick off a busy season.
Beyond his natural speed and hard-working attitude, Ambrose brings a range of shared previous experiences with several members of the No. 60 driving line up, from the similar struggles of Justin Wilson fighting his way up through the open wheel ladder in England, to being teammates at Richard Petty Motorsports with AJ Allmendinger.
“I had a good time with the Mike Shank guys this weekend,” said Ambrose, who has two NASCAR Sprint Cup victories to his credit. “I’m here for Ozz, and for Michael Shank Racing, just trying to get through a difficult time with Ozz’s injury. I’m only here to help. I feel privileged to be with this team, it’s a championship team. It’s a lot of fun to be in this car, it’s beautiful and the speed really flies out of this car! I feel really comfortable behind the wheel and I just want to help anyway I can.”