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NEGRI: Road America Debrief

Ozz Negri files his Sportscar365 column from Road America…

Photo: Peter Burke/IMSA

We had lots of expectations for the weekend at Road America. Jeff [Segal] and I worked really hard on a plan and we were ready to complete it.

I love Road America but then again, I love every race track we go to!

I only did three laps during the first practice on Friday but we knew we were looking good. The car was getting better and better so after a few more changes in the second practice, our Acura NSX GT3 was handling well.

We ended up P6 which was pretty close to the quickest time of the day.

In qualifying on Saturday, it was again so close – we qualified P6 but less than one tenth would have been P4. I was still very confident with the car and was ready to move forward in the race.

Everyone had their eye on the skies as heavy clouds covered us on the grid but the rain gods let us have a dry race!

I was pretty keen on having a good start. I had a plan in mind but it never works as you plan it, does it? So my line did not go and I was stuck just watching two to three cars on the outside line drive by us.

Track position is so important because the cars are so evenly matched that it’s not easy to overtake so I dropped two positions and had my work cut out for me.

Soon came a full course caution and I knew that I had to make the most out of the restart. My only plan was to react and attack – it had to be done.

Coming to the green flag, there were three cars side by side, and I had good momentum so I had little time to see which one of the three cars had more speed.

It looked like the Lexus did so I tucked behind it so we would pass the Ferrari and the Audi before turn 1. I tried to go around the outside of the Lexus into turn 3 but it didn’t work… yet.

I worked on getting to full throttle as early as I could to have a good shot out and realized I had a good run on the Lexus. Getting to the braking zone for turn 5 I saw a gap on the inside and went for it.

It was close, Robert Alon played it super fair as the gap I went for was pretty small.

Running fifth now behind the No. 15 Lexus, we were pushing very hard and I saw we were catching second and third so I didn’t want to fight too much and let them open a gap.

Our cars were strong in different parts of the track and every time I got too close to Pruett (in the Lexus) I would lose aero on the front of the car and I had to manage my left front Continental tire.

I knew that it would make a difference at the end of the stint and it did. When I got called into the pits, second, third and fourth and me were all together.

I had been working all weekend on my in lap because every second counts so I hit it perfectly and with a mega quick driver change and pit work by my incredible Michael Shank Racing crew, when the pit stop cycles were done, we were running a strong solid P2.

After a quick debrief with my engineer and drinking some fluid, I looked at the TV monitor my heart almost stopped. They were showing our car limping with a left rear puncture.

I just could not believe it. So much work put into it and once again we see a podium finish just evaporate in front of us.

Looking at the positive side as always, we had a good solid car and it can only get better. I will go to VIR more motivated than ever. I can’t say enough about my Michael Shank Racing team, they are a group of warriors, gladiators.


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