Shank Ligier Honda to run Detroit with Legge substituting for Pew

Photo: Michael Shank Racing
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Despite initial plans to not run the upcoming IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Detroit, Michael Shank Racing will be able to field its Ligier JS P2 Honda after all.

Shank will have a separate Ligier JS P2 Honda chassis – the one fielded by Tequila Patron ESM in the opening two WeatherTech Championship races at Daytona and Sebring – already on site at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans test day on Sunday, June 5.

So on Saturday, June 4, Ozz Negri will be joined by Katherine Legge in the Shank team’s standard No. 60 car as John Pew will already be in France preparing for his initial run on the test day. Negri, the Brazilian, will then head to Le Mans straight after Detroit as others will.

Legge, who’s starred in the DeltaWing this year but has been unlucky not to bag a result beyond a fifth place co-driving with Sean Rayhall at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, will deputize for Pew as the DeltaWing team won’t take its DWC13 coupe to the streets of Detroit.

She has past Honda experience in IndyCar (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the 2013 Indianapolis 500) and more recently in a Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class at Road America in 2014, co-driving with James Vance.

The Shank entry at Detroit keeps Honda – which has a four-point lead over Chevrolet (135-131) – in the hunt for the season long Manufacturer’s Championship in the Prototype class.

It will make for a complex logistical scenario but something that the team will work to pull off; knowing Shank’s pluck and determination, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s going to try something this cool on the same weekend.

Shank has also enlisted the services of Kevin Doran and Doran Racing, sidelined this year because Nissan withdrew factory support of its two-car 370Z GS class program in the Continental Tire Challenge, to help support the Detroit effort. Members of the Doran Racing squad will also supplement the on-site personnel for the Michael Shank Racing effort.

“I have to admit that I hated the idea of missing Detroit, so for everything to come together for us to race that weekend the way that it has, I’m really happy,” Shank said in a team release. “Hopefully we can bring Honda some good points in the championship.

“Thanks to Katherine (Legge) for jumping in to help us out with John (Pew) already being set up for the Test Day in France. We are looking forward to having her with us, and I really appreciate Dr. Panoz  and Tim (Keene, DeltaWing team manager) letting her join us that weekend. It’s a bit more logistical legwork for us, but we’ve got a good plan in place, and we’ll have Kevin Doran and some of his guys in Detroit to help us out, so we feel good about having a competitive race in Detroit.”

“This is not only my first time in an LMP2 but my first time racing at Detroit and I am really looking forward to it,” Legge added. “I am extremely grateful to Mike Shank and Honda for offering me this chance to drive and really appreciate that Dr. Panoz (Panoz DeltaWing Racing team owner) agrees that this is too good of an opportunity to miss as the DeltaWing is not racing. Ozz (Negri) has already started sending me in-car footage and notes for me to study, and I hope to be as ready as possible from the start of the weekend. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I intend on making as much of it as I possibly can.”

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”