Southard Motorsports Announces Stellar and Eclectic Driver Lineup for Daytona 24 Full Season Drivers Lester and Lewis Joined by Open Wheel Ace Barron and Modified Champ Christopher in No. 3 Lexus-Riley DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 22, 2008 -...
Southard Motorsports Announces Stellar and Eclectic Driver Lineup for Daytona 24
Full Season Drivers Lester and Lewis Joined by Open Wheel Ace Barron and Modified Champ Christopher in No. 3 Lexus-Riley
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 22, 2008 - Southard Motorsports, one of only two Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 teams to race in every event since the 2003 Daytona Prototype season finale, has announced its strongest and most eclectic driver lineup yet for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Team owners Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) plan to bring a full arsenal of talent to the 46th Annual 24 hour race at Daytona International Speedway drawing from sports car racing, NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, NASCAR Modifieds and the IndyCar Series. Multi-time Grand-Am sanctioned event winner Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) returns to the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley for his fifth season. Lewis will be joined for the full, 14-race Grand-Am season by NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standout Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.). Joining the two, fulltime drivers will be NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veteran Ted Christopher (Plainville, Conn.) and IndyCar racer Alex Barron (Menifee, Calif.).
Lester, despite being best known for his NASCAR oval experience, got his start in sports car racing and had his first professional races on road courses. He has four consecutive Rolex 24 starts (1998-2001) with a best finish of third in the AGT class in 2001. In 2007, he ran in three Daytona Prototype races with a season- best finish of 17th. He has five full seasons of Craftsman Truck experience with seven top-10 and two top-five finishes. He also raced in two NASCAR Sprint Cup events, both in 2006.
Lewis is the most experienced sports car racer of the talented driving quartet. With 24, 24 hour race starts, Lewis has multiple victories in the unique form of endurance racing. The 2008 season opener marks Lewis' 11th Rolex 24 at Daytona and he is looking for his first overall victory at the classic American sports car race. He has a career-high fourth-place finish in class at the Rolex 24 and has also enjoyed success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (three times) and the 24 Hours of Nurburgring (twice). Since joining Southard Motorsports in 2004, Lewis has guided the team to two podium finishes and a fourth-place result at Miller Motorsports Park last year. Lewis will add to his Daytona driving duties in Friday's Fresh From Florida 200 KONI Challenge event racing in the ST division, a class in which he won twice in 2007.
Christopher has extensive experience on race courses from dirt and paved ovals to road courses. However, it is his open-wheel, modified success that has garnered the most attention. Included in his results are the 2001 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Modified National Championship and multiple track and regional titles. Christopher has one previous Rolex 24 start coming in 2006. That start came behind the wheel of a car fielded by the only team with more consecutive Daytona Prototype starts than Southard Motorsports; Brumos. His race ended after 22 hours of competition. In 2007, Christopher won the Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified® Championship and finished fifth in the Whelen Modified Tour.
Barron was the final piece of the driving puzzle put into place by the Powell, Ohio-based program. Like Lester, Barron has become well known for his major oval racing accomplishments but has more seat time turning both left and right. Now a five-time Indianapolis 500 starter, Barron got his start in karts winning three United States national karting titles in 1995. He added the Toyota Atlantics Championship to his resume two years later. He has one IndyCar Series victory (Nashville, 2002) and was the Indy 500 co-Rookie of the Year in the same year. Like Lewis, Barron will also participate in the KONI Challenge Series 200-mile event at Daytona driving the BGB Motorsports Porsche in the Grand Sport class.
The No. 3 finished 28th in class at Daytona last year when mechanical problems sidelined the car after 214 laps.
Quotes Steve Southard, Team Owner: "I'm really looking forward to the 24 this year. We have assembled a diverse group of experienced drivers that I believe can run the pace we need. Our crew has been together for several years and has the race experience to fix anything that might go wrong. If we can stay out of trouble we will have an excellent result."
Bill Lester, Driver: "Considering the driving talent we have on our team, I am confident that we can get the job done for this race. We are all experienced and capable of running a solid pace but, even more importantly, know the importance of bringing the car back intact after each stint for the next driver to carry on with. Bearing in mind the depth of the Grand-Am DP field, starting this year's Rolex 24 will be a significant event. The teams and driving talent assembled for this race are phenomenal and I believe we have the ability to run with anyone out there."
Shane Lewis, Driver: "It's always a mental boost going into the 24 Hour with such a great driver lineup. Lester and I work very well together and we both look for the same thing in a car. Teddy and Alex are both true professionals and they know what it takes to get the job done. The crew has been working their heart out preparing the car and now we have the driver lineup to make them proud. I think we have a real shot at doing well this year."
Ted Christopher, Driver: "I'm really looking forward to racing the Rolex 24 with Southard Motorsports. They are probably one of the top dark horse teams in this race. They have a top chassis with the Riley and a development deal with TRD for the Lexus engine. Shane and the team have a lot of experience. We have a pretty strong package. I am psyched for this. I can't wait to get started!"