with Top-10 Finish in Virginia DP Feature
No. 3 Lexus-Riley Starts Ninth, Finishes Tenth in VIR 250
Southard Motorsports kept on a roll scoring another top-10 finish in yesterday's fourth round of the 2008 Grand- Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season. Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.) and Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) started ninth in the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus- Riley and took the checkered flag in tenth. Today's finish again proved the strength of the small but focused team and kept the momentum on the side of the No. 3. It was the second top-10 finish for the Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) owned team in 2008 and the fourth time that car ran consistently in or near the top-five.
Lewis, who qualified the car 11th before being moved up on the starting grid, started the Daytona Prototype class car and raced it swiftly through the field. Despite an early caution period, the former KONI Challenge ST class track record holder on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway (VIR) fought as high as sixth by lap 14. Lewis never dropped below eighth after that point despite running on well worn tires. He handed the V8-powered machine off to Grand-Am Rolex Series rookie but motorsports veteran Lester one hour into the 250 mile (77 laps) event. Following the lap 31 stop for fuel, tires and the driver change, Lester went on his own tear through the field moving as high as fifth on lap 46. Despite limited time on the new-to-him course, the NASCAR veteran found his rhythm behind the wheel setting the car's fastest lap - 1:47.350 (109.659 mph) - on the final tour of the course. After two straight weeks of racing, including race in Mexico, Southard Motorsports will now have a short period of rest. The next Rolex Series event will be held at the beautiful Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The Monterey Festival of Speed 250 is scheduled for May 16-17 on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course. The track, made famous by the "Corkscrew" turn, is a favorite for both Lewis and Lester. Lester had many of his early racing experiences there at the start of his career while living in Oakland, Calif. Lewis, a native of Southern California, has had some of his biggest events there including an FIA GT start during that Series heyday of the 1990s.
Between now and the trip to the west coast, Southard Motorsports will take part in a very special event in the team's hometown of Powell, Ohio. On Friday, May 2, the team's transporter and the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley will be featured in "Touch a Truck" Day for Powell-area school children. The Powell Recreation and Parks Department regularly puts on these days to allow children to get up-close and touch vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulance. This is the first time that a race transporter has been included.
Tape-delayed television coverage of the Bosch Engineering 250 can be seen May 3 at Noon (ET) on SPEED Channel.
QuotesSteve Southard Owner: "It was a good weekend. We didn't have the pace needed to run with the front guys but we got the most out of what we did have. We had a tenth-place car and that is exactly what we got out of it. It was an interesting race. Our fuel economy was better than we anticipated so we knew we could do a two-stop race after about lap 45. We did fuel only on the first stop and the guys did a great stop. These were absolutely the best pit stops we have ever done. The guys deserve the credit for today's result. Everyone really came together; crew, drivers, everyone. When the [second] yellow came out we knew we'd be eight or 10 laps short of doing a two stop race but we didn't have much choice other than to stop. Then it became apparent to us that if we waited for a yellow to come out we'd be overtaken on the track so we made the decision to stop under green. As it turned out a yellow came out one lap later and we got back out right where we wanted to be. Everything worked out. For once the ball bounced and it bounced in the right direction. If we had a little more pace we probably would have had a top-five. Lady Luck was on our side and everybody really did a great job."
Bill Lester, Driver: "Getting a top-ten is an accomplishment, maybe even an overachievement. I would like to be racing in the top-five but we are still working with the setup. To come out with a top-ten is satisfying. From my perspective it was a satisfying race because I had never driven the long course at VIR. I did well when I gauge myself off of Shane's times. Considering I really only had about eight to ten laps on the track prior to race, I am pleased. Judging by the last lap, setting the fastest time for the car, I guess I learned VIR. The way the track is there are very few good passing zones so if you got caught behind someone you were in trouble. You really had to practice patience. We had a good run here and we can load the car up and head to a track I know, Laguna Seca, in a few weeks."
Shane Lewis, Driver: "We knew going into VIR we would be good. We took some chances on strategy and they paid off. The crew guys did awesome pit stops and Bill and I are working really well together. We gambled on the first stop and just took fuel and that gave us good track position. I tried to hold my position as long as I could but at the end I just didn't have the car under me anymore. No one is making any excuses. From the standpoint of how the team is coming together I see a lot of positives. We are doing everything well. Now we just need to make it faster. The competitiveness of this Series is unbelievable. If we had been performing this way, this consistently, two years ago, even last year; top-five no problem. But there are not any slouches in this group anymore so to be tenth is not too bad right now. We know we aren't fast enough but we aren't making any mistakes. We will keep working to find the speed and that is really what makes this thing positive right now. We are doing everything right so we are going to catch a break; I hope."