is About More Than Coming Home for Southard Motorsports
On-Track Rolex DP Effort Supports Dave Thomas Foundation at Ohio Team's Home Track
The Powell, Ohio shop of Southard Motorsports is approximately one hour from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. Since the team's inception in 1972, the 2.258-mile, 13-turn mile road course has been the "home" track for the Steve and Martha Southard-owned operation. Because of the team's recent performances, racing in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by Key Bank holds even more significance for the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley. On the shoulders of the hard work done by the Southard crew, drivers Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.) and Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) have broken into the top-10 and even the top-five for long stretches at recent rounds leading-up the 250 mile/ two hour, 45- minute event on June 21. Despite gremlins that frustrated efforts to secure a top-five finish at several events, the program has enjoyed repeated top qualifying efforts and two finishes in the top-10 thus far. Due to the team's experience at the track and positive direction of the program, confidence is high for the team's homecoming.
While returning home is important, the Mid-Ohio race- round seven of the 14 race Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype class - carries even more significance for the Southards. At each venue the team carries the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption colors on the flanks of the Lexus-powered machine. However, at Mid-Ohio, the Southards pull out all the stops for the Foundation, founded by former Wendy's Restaurant entrepreneur Dave Thomas, whose mission is to "dramatically increase the number of adoptions of waiting children in North America." Southard Motorsports will welcome a group of children with ties to the Dave Thomas Foundation (DaveThomasFoundation.org) to the track over the course of the weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Grand-Am Rolex Series. As they do at each race, the team will also promote the Foundation with a goal of reaching Dave Thomas' vision where "every child will have a loving family and a permanent home." Like Thomas, team owner Steve Southard is an adopted child that went on to accomplish great things through the love and support of his adopted family.
Mid-Ohio is also the spiritual home of TRUECHOICE Motorsports (TRUECHOICE.com), the motorsports safety, parts and accessories company founded as part of the motorsports group once-owned by racing legend Jim Trueman. Trueman's family still owns and operates the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Today, Steve and Martha Southard own TRUECHOICE which offers online and onsite sales of the world's leading brands in racing products and equipment.
The track demands a strong balance in setup for its straightaway speed and medium to slow speed corners making Mid-Ohio a challenge for the drivers and engineers. Like other tracks this season on which Southard Motorsports has performed particularly well, Mid-Ohio's layout seems to be a natural fit for the style of Lewis and Lester. Recent testing and practice sessions have helped team engineer Buddy Fey and crew chief Rich Howe discover several aspects of the car's setup that will benefit Lewis and Lester at Mid- Ohio.
Lewis, who joined Southard Motorsports in 2004, has a Bridgestone Supercar Championship victory at Mid- Ohio (1995) and multiple support event victories here. Along with Southard Motorsports, Lewis will also pilot the Honda America Racing Team (HART) entry in the KONI Challenge ST race on Sunday. Like Southard, HART is an Ohio-based team. Lester has one previous start at Mid-Ohio. He raced a Chevy Beretta for Tom Gloy in the SCCA Trans-Am Series in 1990.
QuotesSteve Southard Owner: "Mid-Ohio has been my home track ever since I started racing in the early 70's. I have seen it transform over the years from a narrow piece of asphalt winding through cornfields to what it is today. Today it is like racing in a park setting. Hillsides have been added for spectators, new and marginally wider pavement has been put down, and the paddock area, garages, and facilities have all been expanded. All of these things make Mid Ohio one of the most competitive and toughest tracks we compete on. About racing the EMCO Gears Classic: "The fans that come to Mid-Ohio are some of the friendliest and knowledgeable racing fans we see anywhere. They have been watching sports cars race at Mid-Ohio since the Can-Am days. Also this race, which is run Saturday evening, is in a different time slot from other race times and is a nice change to our normal routine.
About the team's efforts for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: "We are again this year hosting The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption at Mid-Ohio and are looking forward to continuing our effort to raise awareness of their adoption message. We display their logo on the car at every race and the race at Mid-Ohio becomes a big event for the Foundation and the team. We will be hosting not only executives from the Foundation and Wendy's but adoptive families from all over Ohio as well. I was adopted as a child and this organization has a special meaning for Martha and myself."
Bill Lester, Driver:About racing at Mid-Ohio: "Being that Mid-Ohio is the home track for Southard Motorsports, it definitely gives one extra incentive to perform well in this race. We know there will be additional hometown support for us and we obviously want to put on a good show for everyone. The knowledge learned during the test at Watkins Glen [held on Monday, June 9] combined with what we already know from tracks such as VIR will yield a good setup for us. If we have a good car under us, I know Shane and I produce from the cockpit."About the team's efforts for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: "We've been fortunate enough to have the support of the Dave Thomas Foundation on our race car for the majority of the year. Competing well at Mid-Ohio, which is their backyard, means a lot to me. It is an excellent cause and an honor for our team to represent them. I want them to be proud of the race team they support and having a strong finish, I believe, would go a long way towards satisfying them there as well as exciting them about our relationship in the future."
Shane Lewis, Driver:About racing at Mid-Ohio: "People ask me if I am under a lot of pressure to perform at Mid-Ohio because it is Southard Motorsports' home track. It is actually more excitement than pressure. I am really exited I get to run in front of all of our local fans, family and friends here at Mid-Ohio. I love this race track! It is a driver's race track. The team is excited about being here. I am excited about being here. It's not pressure to perform but the want to do really well in front of the people that are our biggest supporters."
About the team's efforts for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: "Being a part of Southard Motorsports and the Grand-Am Rolex Series I have the chance to do something that I really love to do with people I love working with. But, I think everyone wants to be a part of something bigger, something that really makes a difference. The Dave Thomas Foundation makes a difference. It changes people's lives in a really positive way. Being a small part of that means so much to me. The Southards are working with this program all year long but at Mid-Ohio we get to really be involved in a more direct way. It keeps things in perspective."
Television coverage of the EMCO Gears Classic presented by Key Bank can be seen live on SPEED beginning at 5 PM (ET). Live timing and scoring of each session can be found at Grand-Am.com.