Iowa: Southard Motorsports race report

Southard Motorsports Daytona Prototype takes Eighth Place with Mark Martin on board at Iowa Speedway Newton, Iowa (July 14, 2007) -- NASCAR legend Mark Martin joined Southard Motorsports for his first ever Daytona Prototype race and helped the...

Southard Motorsports Daytona Prototype takes Eighth Place with Mark Martin on board at Iowa Speedway

Newton, Iowa (July 14, 2007) -- NASCAR legend Mark Martin joined Southard Motorsports for his first ever Daytona Prototype race and helped the team score an eighth place finish. Additionally, the team won the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award under the lights at Iowa Speedway Friday, July 13th. The crowd was impressive for Round 9 of the Grand-Am Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, as Mark Martin, Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman worked together to take the No. 3 Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley to its first top-ten of the season at Iowa Speedway.

Mark Martin juggled a full schedule this weekend. Flying in late from NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying at Chicagoland and slated to start the race at Iowa Speedway, Martin missed Daytona Prototype qualifying and was forced to start from the rear of the field. But that did not stop Martin from moving up quickly once the race got underway. Martin quickly adapted to the Prototype, passing seven cars to move into tenth place, while keeping pace with the leaders. When a caution came out on Lap 39, Martin pitted and Shane Lewis took over with full fuel and new tires.

The resulting pit stops put half the field, including Lewis, down a lap to the leaders. Battling back from 14th by turning fast, consistent times, Lewis stayed out during the next yellow and the car got its lap back. The team then took a gamble that another yellow would come out. Lewis ran firmly in fifth place, and showed as high as fourth, until late in the race when he finally had to come in for fuel. The team pitted the car in 32 seconds, not making a driver change, and went back out in ninth place. The race stayed green and Lewis worked his way back up to finish an impressive eighth overall in the 192-lap Daytona Prototype race.

Martin said after his first race in a Daytona Prototype car, "It sure was a lot of fun out there. I could almost go flat out around the oval. The car ran a lot better in the race and I've got to thank Shane and Randy for getting a much better set up than we had yesterday [in practice]. I could get a good run in the oval in this car, and then I'd try to get through the tight stuff. These cars are really sophisticated compared to the ones I usually drive, so it was a blast to drive this car."

"Mark did an awesome job on the start," commented Lewis after the race. "Obviously, his experience through the oval section paid off. He went for it right off the green. He did a great job and handed me an awesome car. Our pit strategy worked well. We'd made so many changes and hadn't practiced at night, I didn't know if the car would come to me or it would be loose or tight. The perfect part was the car came right to me; it was exactly where we wanted it to be. And I can't thank Randy enough. The entire plan was for him to get in at that next yellow. But when our track position was there, he sacrificed his seat time, and said, "Keep it running!" It allowed us to do a quick splash of fuel and stay out there to finish in the top ten. I can't thank him enough for everything."

Ruhlman, who helped set up on the car on Thursday and Friday, but did not end up driving in the race, said, "Sure, I'd like to have gotten in the car tonight. This is a great track and I love to drive under the lights. It's what was planned, but we had a unique situation here with Mark in the car. We had a chance to get a good finish here and if we'd taken the time to make another driver change, we'd have lost our track position. In this kind of racing, it isn't about one driver, like some other series, but about the team and making the most of our opportunities. And that paid off tonight with a good finish here at Iowa."

The 400-K race at the newly built, Rusty Wallace designed Iowa Speedway went the full 192-laps on the 1.3-mile road course oval in Newton, Iowa, just outside of Des Moines. The television coverage was good for the team with extensive on track coverage of the car on the SPEED Channel, as well as on-air interviews with drivers Mark Martin and Randy Ruhlman during the race. Local market coverage from television and radio, as well as print was heavy throughout the two-day race event.

The No. 3 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype is campaigned by Southard Motorsports of Powell, Ohio. The Riley chassis is powered by Lexus engines with technical expertise by TRD Engineering and carries sponsorship from Preformed Line Products from Mayfield Village, Ohio.

Mark Martin did doing double duty this weekend, driving in both the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype event at Iowa Speedway and the NASCAR Nextel Cup event at Chicagoland.

-credit: sm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Rusty Wallace , Randy Ruhlman , Mark Martin