Shane Lewis Qualifies Seventh with Last Lap Long Beach Dash LONG BEACH, Calif., April 7, 2006 -- With a last lap dash to pull the remaining speed from the car, Shane Lewis earned seventh on the grid for tomorrow's Crown Royal Grand...
Shane Lewis Qualifies Seventh with Last Lap Long Beach Dash
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 7, 2006 -- With a last lap dash to pull the remaining speed from the car, Shane Lewis earned seventh on the grid for tomorrow's Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach (Calif.) Daytona Prototype race. The native Californian, now living in Jupiter, Fla., set a time of one minute, 20.907 seconds around the 1.968-mile street course with the No. 3 TrueChoice/ Southard Motorsports Riley-BMW. The top-ten starting position is the highest thus far for the team in the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season. Due to the limited passing opportunities on the track, the top-ten qualifying position will greatly benefit Lewis and co-driver Bill Auberlen (Redondo Beach, Calif.) when the race starts at 4 PM (PT) tomorrow.
The day ended on a brighter note than it had started for the Southard Motorsports team, based in Powell, Ohio. Only seven laps into the morning practice session the car's engine failed. The team immediately sprung to work to replace the damaged unit with a new Steve Dinan-built BMW V8. With little time to prepare the car's setup for the tight and twisty course that runs through the heart of the city of Long Beach, Lewis went out to learn the track- debuting this weekend on the Grand American schedule- and fine-tune the car's performance. After turning multiple laps that would have placed him 15th on the grid of the 26-car field, the cagey veteran brought the car to pit lane to cool the tires. He returned with one "flying" lap to go in the one-hour session. The lap was the weekend's quickest for the BMW-Riley thus far, just over one second behind the pole position time of 1:19.890. Lewis was the highest qualifying BMW-powered car.
"We've never been this close to the pole position," enthused Lewis. "Qualifying is half the race here. To start in the top-ten is a big deal when it is this hard to pass. We went out and just kept running 15th quick, lap after lap. We were working with the setup still and I couldn't get a clean lap. So, I brought the car in, cooled the tires and had the guys send me out at the end of the session. We got a pretty clean lap, probably the best one we had all day, and knocked a second off our time. There is still more in the car that we just weren't able to get to today because of the lack of track time. But, the whole Southard program has really been coming together the last few weeks."
Lewis will start the car in tomorrow evening's event. Unlike other Rolex Series races, which typically range from two hours and 45-minutes to 24 hours in length, the Grand Prix of Long Beach will be 90-minutes, the shortest event of the season. Near the race's midpoint, Lewis will hand-over driving duties to Auberlen.
"The Southard Motorsports guys did just an amazing job," continued Lewis "I have to thank Steve and Martha Southard, every one of the guys on the crew and Steve Dinan and his whole group. Everyone pulled together and got that engine changed in record time. This morning we weren't even sure we'd be able to make it out there to qualify and now we're in the top-ten. That tells you a lot about this group of guys. I'm really, really excited about tomorrow's race. I think it's going to be a great race for the fans and we're definitely pumped-up to be running up towards the front."
Due to the abbreviated weekend schedule, and the engine change in this morning's session, Auberlen will get his first opportunity to drive the Southard BMW in tomorrow's final practice from 8-8:20 AM (PT). While yet to drive this weekend, Auberlen is familiar with the car having driven the TrueChoice entry in a private test earlier this weekend at a nearby road course.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach will take the green flag at 4 PM (PT) on Saturday, April 8. The race can be seen on a tape delay basis at 9 PM (ET), April 8th on SPEED Channel. Live timing and scoring of all sessions and the race can be found at www.GrandAmerican.com.