2008 Grand-Am Closer at Salt Lake
Lack of Major Marketing Partner, Recent Accidents Sideline Lewis and Lester for DP Finale
In a sign of the times and as a result of a string of incidents, Southard Motorsports regretfully announces that it will forgo the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype (DP) season-finale at Miller Motorsports Park.
Owners Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) made the decision to put the team on hiatus when efforts to bring a major marketing partner to the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley failed to bear fruit. The issue was further exasperated by several costly accidents that stretched the team's budget and ended strong, top-10 runs. The Powell, Ohio-based program will use the additional time and savings from missing the season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser in Salt Lake City to continue to pursue marketing partners for the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series which opens in January with the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Effective immediately, drivers Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) and Bill Lester (Atlanta) have been released to drive for other teams at the Sunchaser.
The 1,000 mile, September 20th event marks the first time since the 2003 season-finale at Daytona that Southard Motorsports will miss a Daytona Prototype race. Southard is one of only two teams, the other being Brumos, to compete in every Daytona Prototype race since 2003.
The program has overcome numerous hurdles to field a car in 74 consecutive Rolex Series races first with a BMW- Fabcar, then BMW-Riley and a Lexus-powered Riley with bodywork upgrades for 2008. The combination of Lewis and Lester proved successful when coupled with Southard's solid, professional approach. Daring pit strategies and heads-up driving brought the No. 3 to the lead three times this season. The quickly recognizable Southard Motorsports' red, white and blue livery crossed the finish line in the top-10 three times in '08. However, several major accidents during the season, including two in the last two race meetings, overtaxed the team's budget.
Lewis has been lead driver of the program since joining the group at the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona. In that time he has helped the team take multiple top-10 finishes and two podium finishes (2006 at Long Beach and Phoenix). Southard Motorsports also won the inaugural Jim Truman Driver's Award (2005) and closed the 2007 season with a fourth-place at Miller Motorsports Park. NASCAR veteran Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.) joined the operation this year at the Rolex 24.
Steve Southard began racing in 1972 and was competing professionally on the SCCA National level and in IMSA competition by 1976. He has personally raced in the Rolex 24 At Daytona fives times and the 12 Hours of Sebring five times. Southard made his Grand-Am debut in 2002 in the GT class and raced in the Daytona Prototype as recently as 2004. Southard Motorsports and Steve Southard are well known for their successful campaign of the Coca-Cola Porsche 935 and 962 in historic and vintage racing.
Steve Southard, Owner: "To withdraw from Miller was the most difficult decision that Martha and I have had to make in the last five years. This season has been very frustrating for us, starting with the crash at the 24 Hour at Daytona and culminating at New Jersey. Our budget is gone and it's not just the on- track expenses that depleted it. Fuel expenses are up almost 75 percent from last year. Travel, lodging and food expenses have also risen dramatically.
"The economy has made it difficult for potential sponsors to make the move. Now it's time to put all of our efforts toward securing funding for next year. We can't thank our dedicated crew enough for all the hours they have put in and Bill and Shane have done a remarkable job with the car. We also sincerely appreciate all of our fans who have supported us as we turn our attention toward the 2009 season."