After Early Pit Stop Helps Lewis and Lester to Front
No. 3 Lexus-Riley Finishes 14th in Montréal
Southard Motorsports continued to add to its tally of laps led in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with multiple circuits at the head of the pack in the Montreal 200.
However, the program would eventually finish 14th after the race's running did not play into the team's strategy. Considering the configuration of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal, Quebec, the intense competition in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class and the team's tenth-place starting position, owner/strategist Steve Southard (Powell, Ohio) rolled the dice and outlined a daring strategy to bring the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley on the first lap of the 200 mile/two-hour race. With the first pit stop complete, drivers Bill Lester (Atlanta) and Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) could focus on moving through the field. Lewis, who started the race tenth, fought the Powell, Ohio-based car into the lead on lap 23. He held the top spot for five laps before being bumped into second place. The multi-time Grand-Am race winner was able to maintain a top-six position, despite older tires, until pitting for the final time with 50 minutes remaining in the show.
Lester returned the Southard machine from its final pit stop in 17th position. The NASCAR veteran held his attack and kept the tires on the No. 3 fresh in anticipation of all the other top runner's need to make a final stop for fuel. However, a late-race caution period negated the benefits of the strategy leaving Lester just outside the top-10. Despite falling one lap down to the overall leaders with just minutes remaining, as the leaders began to slow to save fuel - several would eventually run out - Lester would regain the lost lap. The red, white and blue prototype crossed under the checkered flag in 14th on the lead lap. With five laps at the point in Montréal joining their previous laps in position one at the previous two races will give the Southard team additional confidence entering next week's Watkins Glen event on Friday, August 8. The race marks the second time Grand-Am will race on the historic, upstate New York facility. Unlike the first event there, the Six Hours of the Glen, the 200 mile event will be held on the "short course" in conjunction with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
QuotesSteve Southard, Owner: "Our strategy was a gamble. It was based on our calculations that our Lexus-powered car could not run one hour and 15 minutes without a stop for fuel. Every team has to make a mandatory stop in the first 45 minutes of the race. That would require a second stop before the end of the race. We stopped on the first lap which meant we could make our second stop around the halfway point. We would give up track position but it would come back to us when everyone else made their mandatory stop. That part worked. We then pitted from the fifth position at the second caution, just over one hour into the race. That caution did us in. It obviously allowed most of the rest of the cars enough of a fuel savings to make it to the end. The race stayed green and several cars ran out of fuel starting two laps from the end. If the race had gone one or two laps more our strategy would have worked perfectly. We were happy with the result even though it wasn't what we expected. The crew deserves a lot of credit for a flawless pit stop and the drivers did everything required of them. We can't wait for Watkins Glen."
Shane Lewis, Driver: "Steve and Martha looked at this event and decided to really gamble on the strategy. This was real Las Vegas-type stuff and it almost came-up aces. Really, I was surprised more teams didn't try the same strategy but we thought the gamble was worth it. It almost paid off. The last caution kept it from paying off but it was great to get more laps at the front of the Daytona Prototype field. There is some luck that has helped us and some that has hurt us. This weekend it hurt us but we are getting there."