Southard Goes South of the Border to Keep Momentum for No. 3 Lexus Challenges on Track Overshadowed by Logistics of Back-To-Back DP Races MEXICO CITY, Mexico, April 14 2008 - Southard Motorsports enjoyed a strong, top-10 showing at...
Southard Goes South of the Border to Keep Momentum for No. 3 Lexus
Challenges on Track Overshadowed by Logistics of Back-To-Back DP Races
MEXICO CITY, Mexico, April 14 2008 - Southard Motorsports enjoyed a strong, top-10 showing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the most recent round of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season. Now, the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus- Riley and drivers Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) and Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.) will try and carry that momentum 'south of the border, down Mexico-way'. Saturday's Mexico City 250 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez presents an ideal stage for Lester and Lewis to move into the top-five with the small, professional Southard operation. Both drivers, who have similar tastes in race car setup, enjoy fast, technical courses like the Autodromo and each is eager to take their new co-driver to the top step of the Daytona Prototype podium. 250 miles on the Autodromo offers several hurdles for the team but the greatest obstacle to overcome this weekend might just be logistical.
Shane Lewis and Bill Lester on Grid with Southard Lexus-Riley The travel challenges that the Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) owned team must overcome to get to Mexico, and back, in time for the fourth race of the season at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) on April 27 demands a strategy as well crafted as any pit stop plan. The first back-to-back race weekends for Grand-Am demands that the team travel from its headquarters in Powell, Ohio across America to Laredo, Texas. In Laredo, the Southard transporter will join with the rest of the Grand-Am teams to convoy across the border and non-stop to the track. A laundry list of insurance, parts manifests, licenses and other documents must all be in place to ensure a trouble free and safe trip. Once the 250 mile, or two hour and 45-minute (whichever comes first) race is complete the teams will leave the track together at 10 PM on Sunday night. They then travel the distance back to Texas and on to Virginia in time for rig parking on Thursday, April 24.
The 2.5-mile, 14-turn road course in the heart of the world's largest city is technically challenging with several fast turns breaking-up three long straightaways. With a track record of one minute, 12.221 seconds (110.809 mph) the course is one of the quickest the Daytona Prototypes will compete on this season. The Rolex teams will work quickly to overcome a bevy of issues unique to Mexico City. First, and most daunting, of which is the altitude; Mexico City sits over 7,000 feet above sea level. Lewis and Lester each have rigorous physical fitness routines to maximize their performance in the car. However, with the physical output required to drive a car at race speeds in heated competition and heated cockpits, the lack of oxygen puts a strain on even the most fit athlete. When one adds in the demands of traveling to Mexico City, racing and then traveling to Alton, Virginia for the Bosch Engineering 250 the following Sunday, mental and physical preparation will be critical.
The third of 14 Daytona Prototype races this season will also be the first of a string of tracks that Lester has never raced. While it has long been a stop on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the Mexico City 250 marks the first time that Lester, a longtime regular on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will compete here. Lester, who is technically considered a rookie in the Grand-Am despite having competed at the Rolex 24 At Daytona six times, will lean on veteran teammate Lewis. Lewis, who first raced here in 2005 driving a Southard-owned Daytona Prototype, has enjoyed success at the track before.
Steve Southard Owner: "Traveling to Mexico for a race presents a myriad of problems. The logistics of getting the transporter down there with the additional Mexican insurance, two drivers, refueling, not to mention the actual drive down there, is staggering. It's also expensive. The safe hotels in Mexico City where we stay are all 5 star and priced accordingly. Diesel fuel right now is no bargain both in the USA and south of our border. The risk of damage is high because some of the roads in Mexico are terrible. The two [transporter] drivers will leave Laredo, Texas early on Monday morning and will drive in 10-15 truck convoys straight to the track. They will arrive in the middle of the night 20 plus hours later. The trucks are washed and refueled and then parked the next day inside the track. Because of the NASCAR race, they can't leave the track until late Sunday night, even though we race on Saturday. The convoys will then drive the reverse route back to Laredo. This year is even more difficult because of the race at VIR the next weekend."
Bill Lester, Driver: "My expectations for Mexico are for us to finish in the top five. It follows since Daytona was a top-20 and Homestead was a top-10. Our biggest challenge will be finding the right setup for the car. We just don't feel like we have found it yet."
Shane Lewis, Driver: "I can't wait to get back to Mexico City. It is one of the best races that we run all year. The fans there are amazing. They really enjoy the Rolex Series. Not only is the track very challenging but the atmosphere at the Autodromo is fantastic. I had a really great battle there last year with Darren Law and Jorg Bergmeister. Then I had a classic few laps against Diaz, the local Mexican hero, in the Ganassi car that had the crowd on their feet. I just hope to have a car that can take us to the front again this year."