DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For Michael Shank Racing, arriving at Daytona Int’l Speedway for this week’s test session was a new kind of experience.
After winning the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this year, owner Michael Shank and driver Ozz Negri reflected on the victory while driving into the Speedway on Tuesday morning for the first day of testing.
“I actually paused going up through the tunnel in turn four just thinking about how cool it was to drive out of here winning the race and now driving back in as champions,” Shank said. “It just pushes us harder to be more organized, get the car better, get our strategies better and not change some things that worked. I’m all re-energized. I’m not afraid of defending. I think we can do it.”
Said Negri: “It was an interesting feeling when I parked the car and was walking in (to the garage). The thought that the last time I was here – the time that I left the track – I had just won the 50th Rolex 24. It really gave me the chills. This place is so special.”
But when Negri reached the hauler in the garage, his mindset quickly changed to defending the victory in the prestigious sports car race.
“The moment I stepped in the trailer, that thought about the victory here was gone,” Negri said. “My thought and focus was 100 percent into what is 2013. It will be the toughest (Rolex 24) by the way the teams are forming with the driver lineups. I’m pretty sure next season will also be one of the toughest seasons.”
During this week’s test, Negri and co-driver John Pew tested the No. 60 Ford Riley. Shank is once again looking at a two-car effort for the Rolex 24 and knows that defending their Rolex 24 win will be no easy task.
“I think defending is tough, especially a 24-hour race where the variables are just all over the place and we have had it all happen in the past,” Shank said. “But I’m not afraid of it. We have a manual on how to win this race now. I’ve got a 10-page thing. Drivers sit down and all get handed a packet – all eight from both cars. If you do ‘X’ and you’ll get ‘X.’ That’s the bottom line. If we stick to that bible, we have the opportunity to do it again.”