Shane Lewis/ Southard Motorsports Overcome Weekend Struggles to Earn Long Beach Daytona Prototype Podium LONG BEACH, Calif., April 8, 2006 -- Shane Lewis earned his first career Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype ...
Shane Lewis/ Southard Motorsports Overcome Weekend Struggles to Earn Long Beach Daytona Prototype Podium
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 8, 2006 -- Shane Lewis earned his first career Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype podium today at the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach (Calif.). Lewis and co-driver Bill Auberlen (Redondo Beach, Calif.) overcame a bevy of troubles to place the No. 3 TrueChoice/ Southard Motorsports Riley-BMW third at the end of the Rolex Series debut on the streets of Long Beach. The result was the highest Rolex Series class finish for the native Californian, now living in Jupiter, Fla., since a second-place in 2003. It was his highest overall race finish ever in the Rolex Series.
"Long Beach. Long Beach! People from Southern California know how big Long Beach is," enthused Lewis after the podium celebration. "Whether you are a hardcore racing fan or just a casual observer, everyone knows Long Beach. To be on the podium here, the crown jewel of street races in this country, is a dream come true for me. I'm really, really excited about this result. This is a big payoff for all the hard work the whole Southard Motorsports group has put in not just this weekend but all season."
It seemed Long Beach, round-four of the Rolex Sports Car Series, was destined to be a nightmare, not a dream, for the Southard Motorsports team. An engine failed early in the race weekend's first practice session keeping both drivers from getting much-needed practice time on the track. Following a quick engine change-over to a new Steve Dinan-built BMW V8, Lewis dug deep in himself to pull out the seventh-fastest qualifying lap on Friday. He got a great start in today's race but suffered a damaged steering rack when he ran over debris from a three-car accident early in the event. The steering rack would plague the team throughout the race but never worsened. The No. 3 was then called in to serve a drive-though penalty for an on-track infraction. The penalty put them at the back of the field. They would fight back reaching the top-five again until, while running third with five laps to go, an exhaust header broke seeping horsepower from the car as Auberlen fought to stay on the podium. Despite all the difficulty, the team crossed the finish-line just seconds behind the overall race winner.
The drive-through penalty, served by Auberlen after the only driver change of the 90-minute race, was assessed due to some confusion on the track. Lewis did not receive the order from Grand American officials ordering him to follow the pace car into pit lane during the first full course caution. Lewis remained on course while others pitted in order to take the race lead. However, following the penalty, the Steve and Martha Southard-owned operation set about regaining the lost track position. With 20 minutes remaining in the race, Auberlen moved into the top-three with a pass into turn-one of the 11-turn, 1.968-mile Long Beach street course. Despite the broken header, he was able to hold-back the charging fourth-place car of Butch Leitzinger.
"I really have to thank Steve and Martha Southard," continued Lewis. "They have invested so much time, money and emotion into this program it is great to give them the first taste of it paying off. There are more good times to come I think but there have been a lot of tough times up until now. Everyone just kept focused on the job at hand and didn't give up. I have to give a lot of thanks and credit for this to Steve Dinan and his engine folks. We began working with them half-way through Homestead and the results were immediate. We had a few problems there but we knew we had something strong with this partnership and it showed today! And I can't forget about my co-driver, Bill Auberlen. Bill came in on real short notice and did a spectacular job this weekend. It was a real pleasure driving with him. We felt like we had something for them and we showed it here."
The next round of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve will be held at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Vir. on April 23.
For more on Shane Lewis please see www.ShaneLewis.com.
Southard Motorsports can be found at www.SouthardMotorsports.com.