VIR: Stanton to drive with Lewis

Craig Stanton to Drive with Shane Lewis in VIR DP Feature ALTON, Vir., April 21, 2006 -- Southard Motorsports announced just moments ago that 2004 Grand-Am Cup and 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Champion Craig Stanton will co-drive...

Craig Stanton to Drive with Shane Lewis in VIR DP Feature

ALTON, Vir., April 21, 2006 -- Southard Motorsports announced just moments ago that 2004 Grand-Am Cup and 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Champion Craig Stanton will co-drive with the team's lead driver Shane Lewis in this weekend's VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Southard, fresh-off a third-place finish at the Grand Prix of Long Beach with Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.), made the late decision to put the Long Beach, Calif.-resident into the No. 3 TrueChoice/ PAP-Parts BMW-Riley after Lewis' entered co-driver, Elliott Forbes-Robinson (Sherrills Ford, NC), was not able to able to participate in this weekend's event at the 3.27-mile facility. It marks Stanton's first time to compete in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype class.

"We have been talking about and to Craig since last year but the timing never seemed to work," said team owner Steve Southard. "When we found out EFR was not going to be able to race with us, Craig was our first choice. It was a simple decision for us. Craig has shown in both the Grand-Am Cup and Rolex GT that he is a champion and he showed that to us in the session this morning. He was at the top of Shane's list as a co-driver and, with the success we had at Long Beach, we wanted to put the best talent we could in with Shane. These two drivers will get everything out of the TrueChoice BMW on Sunday."

Stanton was already scheduled to be in Alton, Vir. to race in tomorrow's Grand-Am Cup race with the BGB Motorsports' No. 38 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Stanton, who is driving that entry all season, was fourth quick in this morning's first Grand-Am Cup practice prior to getting the call to come drive the Southard entry. Stanton will race in both tomorrow's Grand-Am Cup event and Sunday's 400 kilometer Daytona Prototype race.

"The whole experience was awesome," commented Stanton. "They're going to have a hard time getting me out of this Southard BMW. I'm going to sleep in this car! First thing I need to do is thank Steve and Martha Southard for asking me to drive and Shane Lewis for working so hard to make this happen. Also, the BGB guys have been gracious enough to let me run the DP race this weekend. When I woke-up this morning I wasn't expecting this, so it is a great thing. The Southard crew has made me feel at home already and have worked to make me really, really comfortable in the car. Shane, Steve and Martha have made me feel like one of the family and that is the kind of environment that I love to race in."

Even after the successful practice session, Stanton was caught off guard when Steve Southard handed him the yellow sheet of paper designating the official driver change.

"I was having lunch and just thinking about the car, and the line and how much fun it was to drive," recounted Stanton. "I got a call from Shane [Lewis] and a call from my manager, Shane Mahoney, telling me to get over to the trailer. I didn't know the ride was mine. I thought I was just in there to help the team and test the car. I was as shocked as anyone when Steve told me I was the guy.

"I'm about as jazzed as I can be," continued Stanton. "This shows that the Grand American ladder system works. Not only does it show the teams what you can do as you come-up from Grand-Am Cup to Rolex GT but it also gives you the skills to make the step into DP. When I got into the Southard BMW today I was comfortable right away. From my time in the other two series I was able to get to the skill level that would impress a Daytona Prototype team my first time in the car. I'd say the system works!"

Despite both being native Southern Californians whose careers have paralleled one another from formula cars to international sports car racing success, Lewis and Stanton have never teamed together. However, for Lewis, a multi-time Grand-American race winner, Stanton was the natural choice.

"I think this shows our luck is on the up-turn," said Lewis. "A month ago, if we had had this happen, who knows who we would have been able to get to race with me at the last minute? But, now, we have a driver the caliber of Craig Stanton in the car. Craig and I have been friends for a long time but we have never raced together. We've vacationed with our wives together, but we've never been co-drivers. So, for me, I am really happy. This just keeps the momentum going and I'm looking forward to Sunday's race."

Today's practice session was Stanton's first-ever in a Daytona Prototype and, despite learning the car and the team, he showed himself well. He impressed the team and co-driver Lewis with how quickly he adapted.

"Craig did a great job in that session," offered Lewis. "These cars aren't easy to drive at the limit. They have their own unique things they do. Craig is a Porsche-expert and driving a 911 takes a different set of skills than a DP. So, you never know how somebody is going to adapt the first time in the car. Craig showed why he has won championships the last two years; the guy is good."

-tom moore/darkhorse autosport-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Craig Stanton , Steve Southard