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NEGRI: Road Atlanta Debrief

Ozz Negri files his final Sportscar365 column of season…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

I can’t believe we just completed the final race of the season; this year went by so fast.

Petit Le Mans is such an amazing race. The amount of fans all around the track makes it very special and having won it last year just gave me extra motivation to do it again.

Our Acura NSX GT3 was very good. We tested at Road Atlanta about a month ago and we learned more still. The car had a great balance.

Qualifying was as close as it could be. I qualified the car seventh, only 0.3 seconds off the pole. I was very happy with the car.

The conditions were super tricky at the start of the race. Everyone had slick tires on the cars while we were on the grid and just a few minutes before the call to start engines, it started raining. We bolted on our Continental rain tires and started the race.

Once the green flag waved, I ran close to the front pack and realized after only a few laps that the track was already drying out.

We dove into the pits for slicks and unfortunately the engine died and wouldn’t re-fire.

When it eventually re-fired, we were a lap down. I thought ‘it’s okay, we have a very fast car and still a long way to go’. I also knew the strength of my Michael Shank Racing team with strategy so there was no reason to worry.

I returned to the track just behind my teammate Andy Lally who was leading the race in the No. 93 Acura and I ran with him all through the second stint – just waiting for another yellow so we could recoup the lap.

We had a great pace, we gapped everyone by a lot and again I thought to myself ‘it will all work out’.

Our car was awesome from mid-stint on. We could keep those Continental tires producing great lap times and that was the key. We were very strong from the mid to the end of the stint.

This year it seemed we just could not catch a break. Unfortunately our front splitter started hitting the ground under hard braking and it got worse as laps went by before collapsing. That forced us to go behind the pits to change the front splitter.

We all worked so hard – the team and drivers – and I couldn’t believe that we were out of contention.

I am very blessed to have been part of this new Acura project and I am very proud of what we accomplished this year.

What can I say about my teammates….. they became my family, my brothers and sister. We worked together, we helped each other all year. Thank you Jeff, Kat and Andy.

Michael Shank Racing has been my home for years and every year they impress me more and more but this year with the new car and a new class, MSR showed that they can turn anything into gold and I am not talking about the beautiful AERO Paint gold skin on my No. 86 Acura!

I have to thank all the fans for your support – you can’t imagine how important it is to me.

To my Michael Shank Racing crew, I love you all.

Ozz Negri (@OzzNegri) is the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona race winner, driving for Michael Shank Racing and Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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