As he returns to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team co-owner Mike Shank will have a much better view of his home track than in his first visits.
Shank initially came to the natural-terrain circuit in Lexington, Ohio, as a pre-teen, tagging along with his father who competed in a Fiat 124 Spider in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) F Production class events. It wasn’t a free ride for the younger Shank, who literally was put to work headfirst inside the tiny sports car.
“They would stuff me by my ankles down in the foot well area and I would clean the pedals out,” Shank recalled with a chuckle. “That’s the true story, too, that’s not BS. That’s how we got going and how I kind of grew up around cars. I was happy to do that. It was what they were letting me do.”
Nearly five decades later, the Ohio native now sits atop the timing stand as a team owner and race strategist for the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. The car and its full-time drivers also lead the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) standings heading into Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.
The No. 86 is fresh off its first win of 2020, coming in the six-hour TireRack.com Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Sept. 5. It marked the fourth podium finish in five outings this season, allowing co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry to build a 12-point gap in the GTD championship. The No. 86 boasts a 14-point edge over the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus, while Acura has an eight-point advantage on Lexus in the manufacturer chase.
The Mid-Ohio weekend takes on a meaning of its own for Meyer Shank Racing. It’s the track where Shank’s passion for the sport was born and curated. The team is based in Pataskala, Ohio, just 70 miles south of the track. Partner and manufacturer Acura is title sponsor of the event and considers it a home race as well, since Honda of America Manufacturing’s flagship production plant is in nearby Marysville, Ohio.
Bringing home a win for his team and Acura is paramount for Shank, who has had back-to-back runner-up finishes at Mid-Ohio the past two years – including last year when the No. 86 led 85 of the 114 laps but was overtaken for the lead by the No. 14 Lexus with 20 minutes remaining and fell 0.598 seconds shy of victory.
In some ways, Shank believes Mid-Ohio owes the team some good fortune.
“Of all the success the team has had over the years, we’ve never had a ton up there,” he said. “I’d really like to fix that before I’m done. We’ll see how it goes.”
Shank’s drivers understand the significance of Mid-Ohio as well.
“It’s the home race for Acura and for Meyer Shank Racing, so it’s a big weekend all around,” said Farnbacher. “We’re really hoping to give the team its first win at Mid-Ohio. Last year we came close, so I’m hoping we can change that this weekend.”
McMurry will make his team debut at Mid-Ohio this weekend after his first career victory in the WeatherTech Championship came in Lexington last year racing in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category. He is also coming off an eighth-place finish last weekend in LMP2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the Acura, especially at Mid-Ohio because it’s such a special track for Mike and the team,” McMurry said. “Mario and I have a good rhythm going. We are leading the championship right now, but that doesn’t change our focus heading into the next few events. We’ll try to get as many points as we can, and a win would be awesome to give to Mike.”
WeatherTech Championship track activity begins for the GTD, GT Le Mans (GTLM) and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) classes with a practice at 6:10 p.m. ET Friday. A second practice is set for 10:55 a.m. Saturday, with qualifying at 8 a.m. Sunday.
The two-hour, 40-minute race begins at 2:05 p.m. ET Sunday and streams live on the NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. NBCSN television coverage airs at 11 p.m. ET Sunday.