Pit Box Paradise

Rajan Khanna/The Avion Newspaper

Rajan Khanna/News Editor

Every year, the world’s best sports car drivers take to the track to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Each driver requires the support of their team which includes their car engineers, their mechanics, the logistics managers, and most importantly, their pit crews. The pit crews are at the forefront of the teams’ outcome. Races can be won or lost on pit road; it all depends on how well the crew services the car. At the Rolex 24 at Daytona, The Avion Newspaper had an inside look at what makes renowned IMSA team, Michael Shank Racing, run consistently in their class.

Formed in 1997, Michael Shank Racing began when team owner, Michael Shank, raced himself. He decided to move into an owner position instead of driver and did very well. He won many races as an owner. With this confidence, Shank ventured into sports car racing in 2004. They started out in the Daytona Prototype class and scored the class win. They have since claimed victory at legendary tracks such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta. In 2017, they changed gears and switched to the GT Daytona (GTD), fielding two Acura NSX GT3 cars. In only their fifth start of 2017, they claimed a class victory at Detroit. This victory would be the first win for the NSX GT3 in its existence. Michael Shank Racing has had plenty of success in the past, and with a star-studded driver lineup, their performance in the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona shows that they are here to stay. Their drivers on the No. 86 team include Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner, AJ Allmendinger, Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente, and Trent Hindman. Their No. 93 team consists of NASCAR Xfinity Series winner, Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach, Mario Farnbacher, and Côme Ledogar.

Vipul Telang/The Avion Newspaper

Michael Shank and his crews were commended by their drivers profusely. The cars were phenomenal, “The car handles well in the infield section and is really good on turning.” AJ Allmendinger commented on the performance late Sunday morning. He was slated to drive directly after those remarks and brought the car to a high of second place in his stint. He also commented on how the No. 11 Lamborghini was hard to catch due to their advantage in raw speed. The No. 51 Ferrari was also difficult to catch, but they crashed early Sunday morning. The driver who Allmendinger took over for, Trent Hindman, had nothing but praise for the car, “The conditions on track were greasy and hard to handle, but the car worked well with it. Michael Shank gave me a great car for the race, and we’re doing all we can to keep it up front.” He also commented on how hot it was getting in the car due to the humidity. Earlier Sunday morning, the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 was forced off track and through a sign by a prototype who failed to use the right side of the lane to pass. The car was mostly undamaged, but it did have a lot of grass in the radiator. Hindman commented on their strategy changes they made to stay competitive but did not want to go into detail since those changes were secret. Overall, they believed the car had a solid shot to win.

The most vital part of the team is the pit crew. The pit crew makes sure that everything that needs to be changed or fixed is taken care of midrace. The pit crews of MSR practiced and prepared for the roles perfectly. They perform between 30 and 40 pit stops in a 24-hour race. Unlike the drivers, there are no stints for the crews. The Avion Newspaper visited the pit box many times throughout the race, and all faces were familiar. The team got no breaks and were completely fine with staying awake for the entire race. Not only is staying awake physically taxing but so is pitting a car. They routinely go over the pit wall onto pit road which is extremely dangerous and slick if it rains. They showed the same intensity and speed in each pit stop whether it was lap one or lap 721. The Avion Newspaper interviewed three pit crew members on how they prepare for the most prestigious sports car race in North America. When asked about any pre-race rituals, Jason Givens, the fuel man for the No. 93 car said he never really thought of having one, but he usually says a little prayer before the green flag drops. When asked about how they mentally prepare for an endurance race, they said they could not, “You can never prepare for a twenty-four-hour race. You never know what will happen, so you must stay focused. Just understand anything can happen at any time and be ready for it.” This was a pretty average consensus throughout the pit box and kept them ready to pit at a moment notice. Even with the rain shower that caused the humidity to rise, the crews showed no signs of weakness and pulled through the adversity.

When the checkered flag came out, the Michael Shank Racing number 86 car crossed the line in second place with Alvaro Parente at the wheel, claiming yet another podium for Michael Shank and his race team. The Avion Newspaper would like to congratulate every member of MSR and wishes them the best of luck in the rest of the 2018 season.