After a successful ten-plus year run in top-level IMSA competition, John Pew is set to take a sabbatical, at least from full-time North American racing next year, as the 60-year-old evaluates potential future racing endeavors.
The longtime Michael Shank Racing driver, who has made all but five of his 118 career IMSA starts with the Ohio-based team, will not return to MSR next year, as the team shifts its focus to the GT Daytona class with its recently announced factory Acura NSX GT3 program.
“I’m really happy Shank got the Acura deal,” Pew told Sportscar365. “I didn’t want to leave and have these guys close their doors. I don’t think friends would let that happen.”
Pew has been a staple within the MSR team, having made his debut in 2007 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, before claiming his first pro win at Miller Motorsports Park the following year with co-drivers Rafa Matos and Ian James.
The majority of Pew’s success, however, has come with Ozz Negri, with the pairing having combined for wins at the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, alongside AJ Allmendinger and the late Justin Wilson, as well as most recently in May at Laguna Seca.
“He’s the best teammate one can have,” Negri said. “John has done great for himself, for me, and the team. We’ll miss him a lot.
“All the things that we normally do together on the race weekend, I know what he wants and he knows what I want. It’ll be very different. He went from a novice to the level of a pro driver.”
Pew said one his career highlights came in June when he made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut with Negri and Laurens Vanthoor, finishing 9th in class after a strong and steady run for the Bronze-rated driver.
“I was so happy to have had a good Le Mans,” Pew said. “To go to Le Mans, with the whole team, that was a real good experience. It was hard to beat.
“I still pinch myself; I had no idea, even three years ago, that I’d ever do that. That’s what kept me going in this series.”
Mike Shank shared similar sentiments to Negri on Pew’s tenure with the team.
“It’s hard to describe in a paragraph what John has done for our business,” Shank said. “Just the faith that he put in us in good times and in bad times.
“He never wavered that we were the team he wanted to be with, never ever. We feel like we’ve done a good job for him.
“And on the other hand loyalty like this is just impossible to find in this world today. We owe everything to him and Stephanie. He believed in us, invested in us, and got to us where we are positioned today.”
While set to take a step back from racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Pew said he hasn’t ruled out possible one-off drives, or even an effort in the European Le Mans Series in the future.
“I’m looking at ELMS, and even P3, but I don’t think I’ll do [IMSA Prototype] again. I think I’ve had enough of it,” he said.
“It was good, I liked it and it was enjoyable. I liked the other drivers; they’ve been really supportive and I’ve known them for a long time and I have a lot of respect for them.
“When I’m away from here for a while, I’m sure I’ll miss it. I love the paddock and everyone here.”