Daytona 24: Southard Motorsports preview

HARD WORK PAYS OFF FOR SOUTHARD MOTORSPORTS AS THEY ARRIVE FOR THE 2007 ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA Daytona, FL (Jan. 24, 2007) -- The cry of "They Made It!" was heard today at Daytona International Speedway, as Southard Motorsports arrived at the track...

HARD WORK PAYS OFF FOR SOUTHARD MOTORSPORTS AS THEY ARRIVE FOR THE 2007 ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA

Daytona, FL (Jan. 24, 2007) -- The cry of "They Made It!" was heard today at Daytona International Speedway, as Southard Motorsports arrived at the track with time to spare and taking their place for this weekend's 45th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. After the No. 3 car was completely destroyed in a crash in testing, the team worked tirelessly putting together a new chassis and preparing a new car for the start of practice for Saturday's twice-around the clock endurance classic. Driving the No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley will be the highly talented quartet of Shane Lewis, Randy Ruhlman, Graham Rahal and Elliott Forbes-Robinson.

"We made it and are here, ready to get out there on-track," says team owner Steve Southard. "The crew worked incredibly hard to get the new car ready after the incident in testing. We have a lot of experience as a team, and I think it paid off in our being able to completely rebuild a car and make this race in just two weeks. We're going to start off by checking out all the systems on track and then building up to speed. The race is an endurance classic and we should be right there. We have a fantastic group of drivers ready to go, and a great team. It will be fun to get out there and show what we have. I also want to thank all the fans who watched and followed our progress on the shop web cam and gave us their encouragement. Their support means a lot to us and the team."

With a record 77 past Champions in the driver lineups for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona, including Southard Motorsports driver Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Saturday's race looks to once again be an outstanding start to the 14-race 2007 Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series. Competing the experienced Rolex 24 At Daytona lineup for Southard Motorsports are full season drivers Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman, both long-time veterans of the sport with diverse sprint and endurance series experience, and Graham Rahal, who has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments for a driver who just celebrated his eighteenth birthday.

The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the premier endurance race in the United States and will be held at the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Marking the 45th running of the event, the Grand Marshall for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be NASCAR great Richard Petty. On track activities get under way Thursday, January 25th with both day and night practices. Driver and pit crew practices continue on Friday with the race scheduled to begin on Saturday, January 27th at 1:30 p.m. and run a full 24-hours with the checkered flag on Sunday.

While driver Shane Lewis has marked over twenty-three 24-Hour races to his credit and this will be his ninth appearance at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Elliott Forbes-Robinson is a two-time winner overall of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1997 and 1999, and a class winner in 2000. The other two drivers, Ruhlman and Rahal have extensive race experience, they both made their Rolex 24 At Daytona race debuts last year, Rahal in a GT car and Ruhlman in a Daytona Prototype.

Shane Lewis is widely considered one of the sports leading development drivers and has competed in twenty-three 24-Hour Races--nine-times in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, three-times at Le Mans and twice at Nurburgring. Always a fan favorite, Lewis earned two Daytona Prototype podium finishes with Southard Motorsports in 2006, at the Long Beach Grand Prix and Phoenix. He has multiple wins in the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series and was the 1998 Professional Sports Car Racing Rising Star award winner.

Ruhlman has been a professional driver since 1990 and has extensive racing experience, predominantly in road racing in the Trans-Am Series, as well as in IMSA, ASA and the NASCAR short track series. Last year, Randy Ruhlman drove the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype for Derhaag Motorsports. Ruhlman was the top American driver in the 2005 Trans-Am Drivers' Championship, holding the points lead throughout the season and scoring a pair of wins--the season opener at the Long Beach Grand Prix and the Cleveland Grand Prix. Ruhlman was named the 2005 BBS "Most Improved Driver of the Year" and makes the record books as fourth in Top Ten finishes in Trans-Am history.

Graham Rahal just turned eighteen, yet has already established himself as one of the US's brightest motorsports talents. As the runner up in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, Graham scored five victories (more than any other driver) and became the youngest ever-Atlantic race winner. Beginning in Karts, before spending a season in Formula BMW at age fourteen, Rahal moved on to the Star Mazda Championship where he stood on the podium in six of twelve races and became that series youngest ever race winner. Graham Rahal's success last year in Atlantics, which included 14 season records and the BBS Rising Star award, is propelling his motor racing career toward competing in the 2007 Champ Car World Series.

Besides two overall wins at the Rolex 24 At Daytona (in 1997 and again in 1999) and a class win in 2000, highlights of Forbes-Robinson's long career include: an overall Championship in American LeMans, a co-championship in Can-Am, the 1982 Trans-Am Championship, and four wins in the Rolex Sports Car Series. During his thirty-year tenure in racing, Forbes-Robinson has won races in five different decades and completed in IMSA GTU, SuperVee, Pikes Peak Hill Climb and World Challenge. In 2006, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Earning its first-ever Manufacturer's Championship in 2006, Lexus registered seven victories on the way to capturing the Daytona Prototype crown and scored it's first-ever triumph in the prestigious 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Over the past three seasons and forty Rolex Series events, Lexus-powered entries have taken twenty-one pole positions and won fifteen races.

-credit: southard motorsports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Graham Rahal , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Randy Ruhlman , Richard Petty , Steve Southard