to Keep No. 3 Forward Progress at Watkins Glen
Lester and Lewis Return to Watkins Glen on Surge of Races Led
Southard Motorsports is in the midst of its strongest run of consecutive races in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series history of the team. The No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley, driven by Grand- Am winner Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) and veteran NASCAR driver Bill Lester (Atlanta), has led at least one lap in the each of the last three Daytona Prototype (DP) races. Friday's Crown Royal 200 offers several signs of encouragement that the Southard effort will continue its forward progression at Watkins Glen International. Key among those attributes is that both drivers are familiar with the race course - an uncommon occurrence for Lester who is a Daytona Prototype "rookie". The distance itself, 200 miles or two hours, also adds to the opportunities as Southard's strategy has worked especially effectively at the "shorter" distance events. All told, the Crown Royal 200 has the ingredients to give Southard Motorsports its best finish of the season.
The Crown Royal 200 is the second visit to Watkins Glen this year for the Daytona Prototypes. The first visit came in early June for the Six Hours of the Glen. That event spurred Southard Motorsports with the red, white and blue machine running as high as third. However, a leaking heat exchanger would drop the effort from the race's top-ten two hours into the event. They would finish 17th. Unlike the Six Hour, only the DPs will take part in the Friday evening event. More importantly, the configuration of the race track will be different. Racing in conjunction with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series means that the Grand-Am cars will compete on the shorter, 2.45-mile, 11-turn configuration of The Glen known as the "Short Course". In June, with both DP and GT cars on track, Southard Motorsports competed on the "Long Course" which covers 3.4-miles in its 11 turns.
The focused driving of the two road racing veterans and the daring strategy calls by the Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) owned team has placed the team in contention at many of this year's events. The Powell, Ohio-based organization led one lap at the July race at Daytona International Speedway, one lap at Barber Motorsports Park and five laps in Montréal. The program has not waivered or shown any outward change in demeanor at not posting a higher finishing position this season. Instead, showing the essence of this small but professional organization, Southard Motorsports has looked inwardly to keep driving for the immediate goal of the team's first Daytona Prototype victory.
Television coverage of the Crown Royal 200 can be seen, tape-delayed, on SPEED beginning at 8 PM (ET). Live timing and scoring of each session can be found www.Grand-Am.com.
QuotesSteve Southard, Owner: About the Crown Royal 200: "The short race at Watkins Glen is a bigger challenge than most would expect. It is one of the fastest tracks we run on and one of the shortest races we run. It also requires a little different setup than other courses. The corners are straight forward and very fast. A properly setup car is a must for this race. Since it is a DP race only with no GT cars, you should see several different strategies used by teams. That will make it a very interesting race."
About the challenge of two races in seven days: "This is a tough time for the crew. We left the track at Montréal late on Friday night, drove to Watkins Glen, moved in on Monday and started the prep for Friday's race. What makes it tough is the time away from home, the late hours and the downtime. The crew will be gone from home for one and half weeks, including two weekends. We will do everything but race on Thursday and then sit around all day Friday until our race that evening. We will then work until after midnight packing everything up to exit the track by 2:00 AM. It is hard work both mentally and physically. It takes a lot out of the crew."
Bill Lester, Driver: About returning to Watkins Glen: "Returning to The Glen for a second time this season allows me to personally be up to speed more quickly. I'll know immediately what I'm looking for out of the car and can concentrate solely on setup as opposed to track familiarization and setup. So, in effect, that gives me increased confidence that we can spend more time perfecting our race car."
About his expectations for the race: "Every race brings a new opportunity and this coming weekend is no different. While we've had top-10's I feel that our team is much more capable than that. The benefit of this course is that I think that the faster flowing turns, as opposed to tighter slower ones, will complement our engine package. Having the race be comprised strictly of DP's should also play to our advantage. Thus I believe we could be prime for a season best result."
Comparing the different layouts of The Glen: "I find the long course is more challenging but the short course is faster. So do I particularly like one of the configurations over the other? No, not really. I generally like faster tracks over slower ones. Frankly, I'll like the one that will give us our best performance. Since the short course provides us a DP-only race, I'll probably favor that aspect over anything else."
Shane Lewis, Driver: About his expectations for the race: "I love Watkins Glen. As a driver how can you not like The Glen? We have had some really good runs the last few races. Some of it has been good strategy, some of it has been skill behind the wheel and some has been just a little luck. But, at the end of the day, you make your own luck. You really do. As a team, we work very hard to get everything out of what we have. That is why I love sports car racing. All of those things have a role and that is what makes the sport so unique. I think Watkins Glen can be the next step in this team moving forward."
Comparing the different layouts of The Glen: "It is even more important that we focus on getting a really good race car. Because of the configuration, results are more car dependant than driver dependant on the 'Short Course'. If you are just a little off on the 'Short Course' then you are going to be way off the pace."
About the challenge of two races in seven days: "As a driver I am always looking forward to the next event. I would race seven days a week if I could. What I am really impressed with is the crew. They work so hard to get this car from race to race. There isn't even a full week in-between these two events. Fortunately, we left Canada without too many scratches on the Southard car. That will make it easier on the guys but it is still a lot of effort to turn it around. There is a lot of work that goes into this and I really salute the Southard crew for all they do to give me a great car week-in and week-out."