South Florida Drivers Looking To Win in Front of Local Crowd DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 23, 2004) -- When the Grand-Am Cup Series takes its first laps around the newly reconfigured Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend in the Grand-Am Cup 250,...
South Florida Drivers Looking To Win in Front of Local Crowd
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 23, 2004) -- When the Grand-Am Cup Series takes its first laps around the newly reconfigured Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend in the Grand-Am Cup 250, many drivers may have an extra large cheering section in the stands as eight drivers call South Florida home.
Nuzzo Motorsports No. 20 Mini Cooper-S driver Shane Lewis, of Jupiter, is excited about racing in front of his hometown crowd for the second time this season. He competed in the Rolex Sports Car Series Grand Prix of Miami last month.
"Because we race all over the world, we don't get to race in front of our friends and neighbors from here in Florida too often," Lewis said. "That makes this real special. All the guys from the Shane Lewis Fan Club will be coming down too, so we'll have a real big following. This race is definitely one of my favorites on the circuit."
For many of the drivers, this will be their first time on the new track configuration. Henry Gilbert, of Miramar, will co-pilot the North Shore Racing No. 63 Porsche 996 with John Sturm in the race.
"It's real nice to be at our home track. It feels so good going to a track I am familiar with. I've ran quite a few races on it," Gilbert said. "I know it's going to be a lot faster than it used to be. The new banking is the only part that we have not been on, so we are looking forward to getting on it and seeing how the car does."
SpeedSource No. 68 Mazda RX-8 driver David Tuaty, of Miami, agreed. "This will be my first time on the track with the new configurations," he said. "We're probably going to be flat out in NASCAR turns three and four. Before it was a little hairy on the flat track, so now we should be able to go flat out with no problem."
Fort Lauderdale-resident Marcello Abello, who will co-drive the SpeedSource No. 66 Mazda RX-8, has not been on the new track, but thinks it is best to be cautious on the new banking.
"Be patient, patient and patient, because it's a long race," he said. "Homestead looks easy, but it's not, because it's a very technical track. Time and heat are going to take its toll."
Being a local team has another benefit - creating new fans for the drivers and the Series. SpeedSource driver Rich Walker, of Wellington, has been gaining fans through his four Discount Rental stores, which is the sponsor of the SpeedSource No. 67 Mazda RX-8.
"We really found out (being a local team) gets a lot of customers who are into racing, but not road racing, involved," Walker said. "Since we've done open houses at our stores and taken the car to state fairs, it's getting a lot of people on the Grand American website, on our website and on SpeedSource's website.
"When the first race was televised about a month ago, we probably had 250 customers calling us to verify the time the race was going to be on SPEED Channel. It's been amazing on a local level," he continued.
Other SpeedSource drivers from South Florida include David Haskell, of Plantation, Scott Schlesinger, of Golden Beach, and Sylvain Tremblay, of Coral Springs. Haskell and Tremblay will co-drive the No. 70 Mazda RX-8, while Schlesinger will join Tuaty in the No. 68 Mazda.
The goal of every driver is the same - win the race. But for the South Florida drivers, winning in front of the home crowd is extra incentive.
"We're looking to win it," Tuaty said. "Our goals for the season and the race are to be in the top three. We always want to make it to the podium and be in the top three for the championship. We'll let luck run its course and see where we end up."
"South Florida is where it's all happening," Lewis said. "Where else can you get the blend of cultures, the ocean, the beach, the food, the cars, the racing and the beautiful women? When you think about sports car racing a lot of things jump into your mind, and we have them all right here. Miami is the sports car town."
Round two of the Grand-Am Cup Series will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 27-28. Zippo Live Timing & Scoring will be available throughout the weekend at www.grandamerican.com. Qualifying for the Grand-Am Cup 250 begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, and the race starts at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 28. Tickets will be sold at the gate. Single day tickets are $10 and two-day packages are $15.