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ALTON -- This weekend, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series heads to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) for the Bosch Engineering 250. Coming off a second place finish at Barber Motorsports Park, Ozzi Negri, driver of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Crown Royal Ford Riley, heads to VIR sitting third in the driver standings and second in the team standings. Negri participated in a GRAND AM media teleconference today, and here are some of the highlights of that call.Q. YOU’RE COMING OFF A SECOND PLACE FINISH AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND’S RACE?
A. We take every single race seriously. We know how competitive the series is. We got a good momentum going up in third place in the driver standings and in second place as a team. We have a lot of momentum, and good confidence. We can’t deny that this series is probably one of the toughest series, so we’re going to have to work hard to win it this weekend. Q. YOU HAD A LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PREVIOUS CO-DRIVER MARK PATTERSON. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE FOR YOU TO ADJUST TO YOUR NEW TEAMMATE JOHN PEW?
A. Obviously I’ve known John for quite some time and I know how his mind works and how he drives because he’s been our sister team driver for a number of years. It’s been some work. We’ve been spending quite a bit of time together. We’ve been go-karting every single week. John is a very easy person to work with. He definitely listens. His heart is 100 percent into doing well and performing well. He’s got time on his hands that he can dedicate to me. I’ve been able to get some time with him to work on and off the track with him. It’s been fun and most of all, to me, it’s been motivating. I’m very motivated about working with him and getting great results just as I did with Mark. Q. A LOT OF YOUR WINS HAVE COME LATE IN THE SEASON. IS THAT BECAUSE THE TRACKS LATER ON IN THE SEASON SUIT YOUR TEAM BETTER OR IS JUST HOW YOUR TEAM WORKS?
A. We’ve been very strong in the season before last in 2008 with a couple of podiums and a pole position at the Daytona 24 Hour. It’s just the way that it goes. We are a pro-am driving line-up and our strategy in the race is a little limited. It’s not as flexible when you have a pro-pro in the car. Everything in the car has to be absolutely right for us to be in the top three. For example the last race that I won was in New Jersey, it was all in the pit stop. I came in during the last pit stop in ninth position, and the yellow flags fell at the right time. I didn’t need to take that much fuel. When we all came out of the pits I was third, so I had to pass only two cars to win the race. This series is so competitive. It’s one of the most competitive series that I’ve ever driven in. Everything has to be aligned so you can be up front and win races. I promise you we are working very hard, me, John and the whole team are working very hard to win a race.
Q. WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE TRACK AT VIR?
A. Well we always have a very strong car at VIR. It’s one of my favorite tracks. If you like fast corners, that’s what you get at VIR. Going up hill and ,of course, the last couple of corners going into the front straight. It’s about teamwork and we are not just drivers, but we are also part of the technical part. We need to relay to the team about what we need and what we want with ideas, suggestions. The engineers and I talk quite a lot before race weekends and we come out with a plan and then it’s up to us to deliver that plan. It’s been working very well this year. This is also my sixth year with Michael Shank Racing. We’re pretty much a solid, close group. We know each other very well and we know what each other think. We’re very in sync with each other. At VIR there are a couple of things you definitely look for and one of them is traction coming out of the corners and making sure the car can change direction well going up the hill and coming back down that hill on the back side of the track. That’s what we mostly look for. This is an endurance race. We have to be able to go fast, but we also have to be able to go fast for a long time. That’s really important because at Barber we had a great car, a car that was very easy to drive, a car that stopped so well. The car enabled to me to make the passes and like I said, this is all done before we go to the race between me and the engineers and the whole Michael Shank Racing organization.