Busch Champion Randy LaJoie Joins Sports Car Ace Shane Lewis at Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 25, 2006 -- In a field loaded with the biggest stars in motorsports, one might assume that the resident stars of the Rolex Sports Car Series...
Busch Champion Randy LaJoie Joins Sports Car Ace Shane Lewis at Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 25, 2006 -- In a field loaded with the biggest stars in motorsports, one might assume that the resident stars of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve might resent the attention given to the perceived cherry pickers of their premier event. However, longtime Rolex Series Daytona Prototype driver Shane Lewis is thrilled with the chance to race with some of the brightest names from other series at this weekend's 44th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Jupiter, Fla. resident is especially excited to be sharing the No. 3 Whelen/ F.A.S.T./ Truechoice Motorsports BMW-Riley with two-time NASCAR Busch Series Champion Randy LaJoie (Kannapolis, NC). The 1996 and '97 Busch Series champ, who also took the 1985 Busch North Series title, will be making his Rolex 24 debut in the Southard Motorsports entry with Lewis who will be starting his ninth Rolex 24 and 22nd career 24 hour race. Lewis and LaJoie, who quickly became friends while at the Rolex 24 Test Days in early January, will also alternate the red, white and blue BMW-powered prototype with Tony Burgess (Toronto) and Chris Szekeres (Hartland, Michigan).
"Randy really took to the cars and wanted to learn," said Lewis about introducing a championship driver to a new arena of the sport. "He and I worked on going over all the controls of the race car, what to expect the car to do, what to expect of the race track, turn-in points, braking points, things like that. Randy had never been on the road course at Daytona before or driven a Daytona Prototype so I was really pleased at how well we worked together. He went out and did just a phenomenal job in Test Days. A professional race driver is going to be strong in whatever he steps into if he approaches it with respect. Randy has done that and the results show it."
Lewis and LaJoie share a common understanding of race car principles that, for top drivers, translate to all of motorsports. Lewis got his start in motorsports on ovals and is experienced driving the 3500 pound stock cars that LaJoie has mastered. LaJoie has experience driving on select road courses in NASCAR. Together, the two communicated like long-time teammates.
"I'm excited to be running in the Rolex 24 with Shane Lewis and Steve Southard and the race team I practiced with two weeks ago," offered an enthusiastic LaJoie. "I'm looking forward to learning something. This is something I might want to be doing in the near future. Road racing is very enjoyable and I need to learn this market. I think I have ovals figured out but I haven't quite got road racing down. So I'm doing 24 hours of it. I couldn't ask for a better co-driver than Shane. He really knows his stuff and he is darn fast."
The Rolex 24 is a unique event among a unique niche of motorsports. Never before has LaJoie had to race on the track with multiple classes of cars with massively different performance limits. Coupled with the different classes, different makes in each class, different levels of experience and skill of each driver on one of the fastest road courses in the world, even the most experienced driver has to be on his guard at the Rolex 24.
"I think the biggest issue will be the mindset," contemplated Lewis whose 24 hour resume includes not only the Rolex 24 but three trips to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two to the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. "How you drive the car in traffic? How you drive in what is now, really, a 24 hour sprint race? Never putting a wheel wrong. Never getting into another car. You can't be rubbing on each other in a 24 hour race. The mentality of how to take care of yourself through 24 hours; to eat properly, to drink properly, to try and get a few minutes of rest in-between stints and to be sharp when the sun comes up the next morning. That is what is so tough about any endurance race. It is just magnified at Daytona for a lot of reasons.
"Traffic is going to be a new circumstance for Randy with the GT cars," continued Lewis. "Plus, there are so many different levels of driver ability. You might race against a car in an early stint; know what he is going to do and feel comfortable racing him. Then you come up on the same car in a different stint, six, ten hours later, and it is an entirely different driver that might not have the same skills. You can talk about these things all you want. But, until you actually experience a 24 hour race it is very difficult to truly understand it. You have got to experience it. Just like a start in the Cup or Busch Series race here at Daytona. You have to experience it to know what to do the next time. No matter how many veterans try and explain it, you can't really, totally prepare yourself for that.
Support for the Rolex 24 effort comes from Whelen Engineering, manufacturers of emergency warning devices, including lighting and sirens, for commercial and industrial use. Fresh Air Systems Technologies (F.A.S.T.), the industry leader in "cool" suit technology for motorsports. Truechoice Motorsports a racing industry leader in supplying parts and products of all types. Included in Truechoice's catalog are a series of sports car seats crafted by LaJoie based on his popular NASCAR designs. PAP Parts is a supplier of German automotive parts for racing and street use.
This is the second season overall for Southard Motorsports and lead driver Lewis to run the BMW-powered Riley. However, it is the debut for the combination at the Rolex 24. It is Lewis's third season as lead driver for the Powell, Ohio based team.
"I think we have a good chance of finishing well," Lewis projected. "We never had a problem with the BMW engine all of last year. I know we don't have the outright top speed of some of the other teams but we have a good solid package. And when I say a good solid package I mean the car, the team, the drivers and the preparation and experience to go 24 hours."
The 44th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona is scheduled to take the green flag at 12 PM noon (ET), Saturday, January 28. SPEED Channel will broadcast 13 hours live starting at noon, Saturday. A second installment will air at 8 PM (ET) while the race's finish will be aired beginning at 8 AM, Sunday, January 29 running through the 12 PM checkered flag. Live timing and scoring of all sessions and the race can be found at www.GrandAmerican.com.