Justin and Michael Shank Racing were hoping to match their 2012 race-winning result with victory in this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, but the #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford EcoBoost Riley suffered a mechanical setback overnight during the opening race of the new IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Following Saturday’s 2:11 PM green flag, Justin and co-drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri and AJ Allmendinger ran in the top-five and Justin briefly led the race before a transmission issue in the early hours of Sunday morning twice forced the team behind the wall for repairs. After losing first gear around 4am, fast work by the Michael Shank Racing team replaced the gear stack in less than 10 minutes. But residual debris in the gearbox prompted a longer trip behind the wall to change the gearbox in order to make it to the finish. After 2 and a half hours, the #60 car returned to the fray 96 laps down to the leader, but the Michael Shank Racing #nevergiveup attitude was put into play and the team delivered the Ford EcoBoost its first-ever finish in the world-class endurance event.
“When we’ve come here for the past four years, we’ve finished on the lead lap between first and seventh so when we’re not in that position, it’s a bit of a letdown,” said team owner Mike Shank.“But it’s not for lack of trying, I promise you that. It’s just a fluke gear thing that we’ve never had happen ever, that led to a bigger gearbox problem. We had to bring the car in to replace the box before it blew up. We could have parked it, but we wanted to do the job and finish strong—we had to for all the people in Detroit who are behind this. It was a lot of effort from Ford and Roush Yates to have this EcoBoost motor ready for the race. The motor ran great actually. We’ve had no issues with it. We didn’t know where we stood with the motor but it did great. It’s a true testament to Ford. It was a monumental effort to get a new engine to last (for the full distance). They put in so much effort and we want to finish as well as we can for all our partners. We wish we were there to be fighting for the win like we have the last couple of years, but we just want to get to the finish as best we can.”
“I’ve got to thank Mike Shank and the whole team for all their hard work,” said Justin. “Everyone did a great job, but unfortunately it just wasn’t our year and there wasn’t any way for us to come back. The Ford EcoBoost engine ran flawlessly throughout the race and for its first time out they did a great job.”
“The Shank guys really never give up,” said John Pew. “This race, it’s huge. We really wanted to bring a big result for Ford and the EcoBoost, but with the transmission problem we were not fighting for a podium. But it was good to at least get to the finish and considering everything that was new for everyone, that is something to build on. You always want to be fighting for more, but now we will just look ahead to Sebring – that’s going to be an outstanding event.”
“The car was great and the result does not represent the finish we could have had,” added Ozz Negri. “Nevertheless, my hat’s off to Mike and the entire crew for working so hard and taking us all the way to the end. Hats off also to Ford; they worked so hard on the engine during such an important period of time. I can only tell you that I am looking forward to the rest of the season!”
“These Michael Shank Racing guys work so hard, but this was just not our year,” said AJ Allmendinger. “I had a couple of weird (gear) shifts and it seemed like it (the transmission) was working okay, but then they called me in before the transmission was going to blow up. So we had to go behind the wall. The guys hustled and got it done. The Ford guys put a lot of work into this engine to be ready and the car was pretty easy to drive. We didn’t have the same pace as the leaders but the car was strong. It’s disappointing to not be fighting for something big here at Daytona, but it’s just a freak thing with the transmission.”
The Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian team will look to build some momentum in the IMSA TUDOR SportsCar Championship when round two is held at Sebring International Raceway on March 12-15.