Meyer Shank Racing’s Road to the Top

Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, John Pew, MIke Shank 2012 winners

A 24-hour race is about survival, for sure. The whole racing game is about survival. You can’t win if you can’t survive, especially in endurance motorsports like the Rolex 24 at Daytona and its midsummer cousin, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

At the close of the 60th edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, an event held under very chilly conditions until maybe an hour remained in play, the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 stood in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane as overall and premier DPi-class winners, with exultant members of the Ohio-based Meyer Shank Racing team enjoying the fruits of their labor.

The story of how Meyer Shank Racing arrived at this pinnacle starts with Mike Shank, a former Atlantic racer who built a team the hard way. Racing a prototype in the Grand-Am series that predated IMSA’s WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, Shank spent ten years trying to earn a win. He did it for the first time in one of the most important events on the sports car calendar: the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, John Pew, MIke Shank 2012 winners
Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, John Pew, MIke Shank 2012 winners

Shank had some help getting to that first victory, and had a platoon of drivers who just wouldn’t give up during the race. To his regular roster of Ozz Negri and John Pew, Shank added great friend A.J. Allmendinger and The Dinger’s former RuSport teammate Justin Wilson.

How those drivers all shared a prototype and emerged winners was tough to comprehend: they needed extra pit stop time to change the seats for one of the smaller (Allmendinger Negri) or larger drivers Wilson and Pew. Somehow they stayed ahead of the challenging No. 8 Starworks car to the finish. There were only three cars on the lead lap, the third being a second Riley/Ford entry from then-named Michael Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian.

Interesting factoid: the 2022 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona was completed in 761 laps; the 50th 2012 edition went exactly the same distance, when MSR, Starworks, MSR completed 761 laps. This year only the top four completed the full distance; in 2012 there were three as just noted.

Pagenaud, Jarvis, Blomqvist, Castroneves 2022 victory
Pagenaud, Jarvis, Blomqvist, Castroneves 2022 victory

The 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona was Tom Blomqvist’s first victory in his 12th series start but first in this particular race. Oliver Jarvis, who was the rabbit for Mazda Motorsports during its IMSA prototype competition, earned his sixth career IMSA victory and second Rolex 24 victory in his seventh start. Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 INDYCAR series champion and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner, took his 11th IMSA victory and first Rolex 24 win in his ninth start. Helio Castroneves earned his eighth career win, second Rolex victory in seven starts and his second straight victory in Daytona Beach; he drove last year for Wayne Taylor Racing, who were chasing their fourth straight Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in 2022.

While the Rolex 24 at Daytona always has a stellar group of drivers attempting to earn their Rolex watches and the glory that comes with this particular victory, this year’s race lacked a good presence from NASCAR and Formula One, seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson being the outlier. What it did have was a 12-pack of INDYCAR drivers, including the two Meyer Shank Racing pilots that will race the full season for MSR: Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Both came to MSR from Team Penske, inviting a comparison once the INDYCAR season is complete. Will MSR beat Team Penske?

We won’t know the answer to that question until fall, but suffice to say, Meyer Shank Racing is no longer a little team that could, as it was in 2012 before Jim Meyer joined the team and helped advance it from a one-car, partial-season INDYCAR squad to a two-car, full-time team. At the same time, while Mike Shank was unable to find an engine partner for his first stab at INDYCAR, his enhanced squad is now both a technical partner of Andretti Autosport in open wheel and a partner to Acura in IMSA. Both affiliations have – and continue to – pay off mightily with the Indy 500 victory and, now, the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona title.

As they did in 2012, Meyer Shank Racing had to hustle to earn this victory and were, at times, at the bottom of the DPi pecking order over the course of 24 hours. They ebbed, they flowed and they persevered to gain back spots lost to competitors, both the other Acura team (Wayne Taylor Racing) and the five Cadillac DPi entries. All of these prototypes led at one time or another during the course of 24 hours. For first-time winner Blomqvist, the race was “very different from what I’m used to,” he said. “Every stint here is just flat out. You’re managing so many things; you feel like you’re racing nose to tail, literally from the green light.”

It might be a tired phrase, but for Meyer Shank Racing and its four drivers, led by ageless Castroneves, who is currently 46 years old chronologically but still a kid for his love of the sport, it just doesn’t get any better.

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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