Fan Appreciation Weekend at Homestead
Miami native to compete in first ever KONI Sports Car Challenge race for Rehagen Racing Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 veteran Ozz Negri has been added to the list of Rolex Series regulars entered for next week's KONI Sports Car Challenge race, the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.Negri will drive the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT with co-driver and Oakville, Ontario, native Ken Wilden in the Grand Sport (GS) race, which will take place Sunday, March 15. All fans will be admitted to the track free with a print-at-home ticket voucher, which can be found at grand-am.com/konitickets.Negri competes regularly in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes with Michael Shank Racing, co-driving the No. 60 Ford Riley with Mark Patterson. Together, the pair won their second career race together at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park last August.
The race at Homestead will be the first in KONI Challenge competition for Negri, a native Brazilian who now lives in Miami. But he'll already know the fast way around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn course, having scored a podium finish in his first Daytona Prototype start with Michael Shank Racing in 2004. He's kept a strong record at the South Florida facility, and returned to the Homestead podium in last year's Grand Prix of Miami. Overall, he has three top fives.
The Negri-Wilden lineup is also a reunion of sorts, as the two were teammates at Michael Shank Racing during part of the 2006 season."I watched the KONI Challenge race from Daytona on TV, and it was amazing," said Negri, whose popularity is expected to draw well among Latin Americans in the South Florida area. "I thought it was so cool, I would like to try it. Then the right opportunity came along, so let's do it. I'm good friends with Kenny Wilden and we've got a great relationship, so working with him will cut down my learning curve with that kind of car. I'm looking forward to racing the Ford Mustang at Homestead-Miami Speedway; that will be pretty cool."Stepping out of the car will be team principal and team regular Dean Martin, who ended the 2008 GS season on the VIR podium to take sixth in points. While the race away will put Martin in a tough position to continue challenging for the title, the Westland, Mich., native believes the No. 59 driver lineup will produce a solid finish. Martin qualified the No. 59 on the pole in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, and Wilden took the car to third at the checkered flag."It's a tough decision to get out of the car, but I'm really looking forward to having Ozz in the car for the weekend," Martin said. "Getting out of the car will allow me to focus on race strategy and team communication in the pits. Ozz and Kenny should be able to keep our Ford Mustang at the front of the field and give our sponsors Belesta, and Watson Engineering some great exposure."Rehagen Racing bolsters a solid car and driver lineup throughout its program. In addition to Negri, Rolex Series veteran Rob Finlay has joined the team to compete in the No. 58 Ford Mustang GT. He will share the car with Steve Cameron. Last week, Rolex 24 At Daytona co-winner Darren Law was announced as a driver for Maxwell Paper Racing.San Juan, Puerto Rico, drivers Bryan Ortiz and Roberto Bengoa are among the top Hispanic drivers entered, and the two will co-pilot the No. 57 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT. The fourth car, the No. 52 Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT, will be contested by Ray Mason and Phil Lasco.Twenty-eight GS cars and 31 Street Tuner (ST) cars are entered for the race, with practice taking place March 13 and racing on March 14 and March 15. The second season of the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge will also begin at Homestead.Print-at-home tickets for the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend are currently available for free by visiting grand-am.com/konitickets. Without the free vouchers, fans can purchase tickets at the track for $10 each. The KONI ST race will take place Saturday, March 14, while the GS race is scheduled for Sunday, March 15.