It started as a fun wager, which maybe in the back of Michael Shank’s mind he didn’t think would have to be paid. But it did, courtesy of Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian’s victory Jan. 28 in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the effusive team owner couldn’t be happier to settle the obligation.
Today, Shank has AJ Allmendinger’s logo – flames and all – replacing thick hair on the back of his noggin.
The impromptu wager was set in December, with Allmendinger (a co-driver with Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew in the endurance race) capturing it on video. The buzz is now viral. WATCH THE REVEAL
“I still can’t believe it,” Shank said. “Before the race even finished I’ve got hundreds of texts, emails and calls. It’s overwhelming but we are all relishing this because we know how hard it is to win one of these things. It all comes down to the people who I’m working with. They did the job this weekend and I have always felt lucky to be working with them. Hopefully this is just that start to what we hope to be a very big year for us.”
That’s both in the Grand Am Series and IZOD IndyCar Series. As noted in indycar.com’s Rolex 24 post-script, Shank also is putting the final touches on the MSR Indy team for the 2012 season. Indy car veteran Paul Tracy acknowledged on pit lane that he’ll be the driver. Allmendinger, who will begin his journey with Penske Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team this month, also is a principal in MSR Indy.
“I still love open-wheel racing. That’s why I have a partnership with Mike Shank and his IndyCar team,” said Allmendinger, a former CART competitor, during a teleconference Feb. 1. “I’m going to enjoy being a part of that, and hopefully seeing it grow to where it’s a competitive race team, and we can go out there and contend for victories during the IndyCar Series. I still have a huge interest in open-wheel racing.”
Shank has penciled in Allmendinger to drive the Daytona Prototype in the inaugural Grand-Am event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August as part of the NASCAR weekend.
“For me, Indianapolis is the place,” Shank said. “It’s hallowed ground. It’s where I grew up. It’s what I always dreamed to be. So when we tested there a couple years ago with our car, I drove the car a little bit, which is frightening for everyone else to see me do that. It was a great thing. I can’t wait.”
Added Allmendinger: “It’s Indy. It’s the same thing as when you talk about Daytona. You just say the racetrack’s name, and it doesn’t matter what you’re racing there, whether it’s an Indy car, a Cup car, Grand-Am car, motorcycle, whatever, you just say the name Indy and it’s special.”