Southard Motorsports Looks to Turn Luck at PIR Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton Eager to Team at Exciting Phoenix Road Course AVONDALE, Ariz., May 11, 2006 -- Southard Motorsports enters Saturday night's GAINSCO Grand Prix looking to fulfill...
Southard Motorsports Looks to Turn Luck at PIR
Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton Eager to Team at Exciting Phoenix Road Course
AVONDALE, Ariz., May 11, 2006 -- Southard Motorsports enters Saturday night's GAINSCO Grand Prix looking to fulfill the potential they have shown early this season in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. The 250-mile event at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is the third-straight race in which Southard lead driver Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) will be joined by two-time Grand American champion Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.). The pair ran as high as third last week in the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Monterey, Calif.) and the No. 3 TrueChoice/ PAP-Parts BMW-Riley finished third in the Grand Prix of Long Beach earlier this season. The 1.51-mile PIR road courses, which utilizes turn-one, three and four and much of the back-straightaway of the PIR oval, is always a thriller. The fast, tight track coupled with the excitement of racing on Saturday night brings out some of the most intense competition of the season in the fiercely contested Daytona Prototype class.
"I raced a lot of Saturday night bullrings when I started and this race has the same feeling," commented Lewis. "You just tighten the belts, grit your teeth and hope that the car comes out as close to one piece as possible. You don't start the race planning to fight it out like that but the close racing just puts a lot of people in the same place at once. It's our job as drivers to try and come out of that in first. The competition in the Daytona Prototypes always generates a lot of emotion. But PIR brings it to another level. When the green flag drops everybody just sees red. If you come out of here with no damage, you didn't make it to the start.
The Steve and Martha Southard-owned team is in its fourth season of Rolex Series competition, its third with Lewis as a driver. Lewis and Stanton of each had their impressive results at the circuit in the Phoenix suburb. The BMW-powered Riley of Southard finished 11th in 2005. In 2003, Lewis ran to a dominating Grand-Am Cup victory at PIR as well as a 1995 IMSA Supercar event at the track. Stanton has also stood on the PIR podium. In 2004, he raced to a Grand-Am Cup victory here and Rolex Series SGS class second-place. This will be Stanton's third Daytona Prototype start and his first at Phoenix. The 2004 Grand-Am Cup and 2005 Rolex GT Champion also has a lot of experience on short-tracks under the lights.
"It's almost impossible to keep the nose clean here even when you're trying," said Stanton. "As a driver it is intense. It's a lot of fun at times and not so much at others. It's just really, really intense. I race a Late Model [stock car] on a bullring in Southern California a lot so I know what this type of environment is all about. We're starting to find a rhythm here at the Southard team. Shane and I are working really well together and I'm really comfortable here. Every week I learn more about the car. I have a really good feeling about this weekend at Phoenix."
The strong performance of the Powell, Ohio-based team is starting to draw a great deal of attention on both sides of the catch-fencing. The operation is pursuing several opportunities to be the backbone of a strong marketing program. The marketing partnership is what Lewis sees as the last piece of the puzzle needed to keep the No. 3 on the podium.
"You don't come across people like are here at Southard Motorsports very often," said Lewis. "It's a team and it's a family. Most importantly, it is a group that wants to win. They put everything they have into winning races. They understand the value of being on the podium and they understand the importance of doing that extra bit off the track too. Once we get into a position where we are working closely on a top-flight marketing program, there is almost nothing this team won't be able to do."