Valiante, Shank lead Grand-Am practice at New Jersey
Winners in the inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 event at New Jersey Motorsports Park last August, Michael Shank Racing took over where it left off on Friday by dominating opening practice for Sunday's Verizon Wireless 250.
Round 3 of the 2009 season takes the green flag at 1 p.m. ET Sunday (SPEED, live) on the circuit's 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway.
Michael Valiante led the morning session with a lap of 1:14.905 (108.137 mph) in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, while Ozz Negri led a 1-2 sweep of the afternoon session, 1:15.302 (107.567 mph). Last year, Negri and Mark Patterson teamed to give the team its first victory in two years at Thunderbolt Raceway. Valiante and co-driver John Pew are coming off a second-place finish in the most recent Rolex Series event, last weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
"It seems we've got a sweet spot in our setup that's been working everywhere," Negri said. "It's a team effort between the 6 and 60 cars, and if one of us finds something a little different, they tell the team from the other car. Both teams are right up there, and it's very gratifying."
Second fastest in the combined sessions was the No. 12 Penske Racing/Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, 1:14.988 (108.017 mph), followed by Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara, 1:15.271 (107.611 mph). Negri's time from the afternoon session was fourth-fastest overall.
"I'm quite surprised, because this is a new track for both Romain and me, and we're not really familiar with it," said Bernhard. "In the end, it will be really close racing, and that's what the fans are looking for."
Defending Daytona Prototype co-champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were fifth in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley.