Watkins Glen: Southard Motorsports preview

Southard Motorsports Looks to Watkins Glen to Merge All Program Elements 6 Hour Endurance Event Prime Opportunity for Lewis and Lester to Find Stride WATKINS GLEN, NY, June 3, 2008 - In 52 years of existence, Watkins Glen International has...

Southard Motorsports Looks to Watkins Glen to Merge All Program Elements 6 Hour Endurance Event Prime Opportunity for Lewis and Lester to Find Stride

WATKINS GLEN, NY, June 3, 2008 - In 52 years of existence, Watkins Glen International has become a celebrated track and, in its 27th year, The Six Hours of The Glen has become one of the leading endurance racing events in the world. With its classic, full-course layout and endurance format, history has shown that "The Six Hour" benefits teams with professional preparation, driver skill and a keen understanding of strategy. Team's like Southard Motorsports. Making its fifth appearance in the Grand- Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype class of "The Six Hour", the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus-Riley is looking to the extended event- up from the Series' typical 200-mile/two hour and 45-minute races- as the perfect setting to merge multiple elements of the program into podium-finishing operation. Elements that, once in place, will bring the Steve and Martha Southard (Powell, Ohio) owned team and drivers Bill Lester (Atlanta, Ga.) and Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) to full stride for the remainder of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season.

Southard Lexus by Juha Lievonen The June 7 six hour endurance race, the longest Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, separates teams that can grid quick race cars to teams that can keep cars running quickly over the full course of the event. There are no pretenders at the end of six hours. While not showing all the results it would like to this point, 2008 has proven to be the most promising season for Southard Motorsports. Southard is one of only two teams to have participated in every DP race since the inaugural season's final event in 2003 and has scored career-best finishes of third, both in 2006. Despite only two top-tens thus far in '08 the team has proven it can run with the other contenders. Southard raced consistently in the top-five at Laguna Seca, the most recent round of the Series, and securely in the top-10 in events prior to that. Top-10 qualifying efforts have also been the norm rather than the exception.

Lester and Lewis have combined to create a formidable and like-minded pairing behind the wheel. Unlike previous seasons, Lewis- who joined the Southard effort in 2004- now has a professional co- driver that can match his skill level. That has allowed the engineering staff, led by Buddy Fey, to find a comfortable but quick setup for the No. 3. The Southards, along with team manager Mason Meredith and crew chief Rich Howe, have the Powell, Ohio- based organization running smoothly in pit lane while Steve Southard has provided excellent strategy calls. All combined with a track that fits the style of the drivers, The Six Hours of The Glen could prove to be the pivotal moment in the history of Southard Motorsports.

Lewis, the more practiced sports car racer of the two, and Lester, a Daytona Prototype rookie but racing veteran with extensive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series experience, have each enjoyed career milestones at Watkins Glen. It was here in 1999 that Lester became the first black driver to compete in the Busch Grand National, now Nationwide, Series. That start added to his 142 Truck Series and two NASCAR Sprint Cup starts. Lester has competed in two other races at The Glen; the World Challenge race in 1996 and KONI Challenge in 2000. Lewis also made a major personal NASCAR debut at Watkins Glen. The multi-time Grand-Am sanctioned event race winner made the Winston Cup, now Sprint Cup, race on time but was bumped from the field without a provisional starting position in 2001. He has won events in other series here and has scored multiple top-15 finishes for Southard in the "Six Hour". Lewis had his first "Six Hour" start in 1997. This marks Lester's first Six Hours of The Glen start.

Southard Motorsports will visit the Upstate-New York facility twice in 2008. The Six Hours of The Glen, the premier event of this weekend, will utilize the traditional "Long Course" while the second event on August 8 will accompany the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series using the "Short Course". At 3.4-miles, the 11- turn "Long Course" is the traditional track used to host some of North America's leading motorsports events with its base-layout dating back to 1971. The Watkins Glen facility ran its first race in 1953 while motorsports events have been held in the community, first on a temporary course, since 1948.

Steve Southard Owner: "This race at this track is a classic. To win The Six Hour you have to do everything right: pit stops, driver changes, strategy, everything. It is essentially a six hour sprint race. As a team we seem to fare better in the longer races. Maybe because we don't test as much as other teams do? We seem to have a race pace that works well in the longer races. If we were to finish well here it would be a big boost for us. We're not too far off right now. We ran as high as fourth at Laguna until we botched a pit stop and there wasn't enough time in the race to recover from that. If we do everything right at Watkins Glen, have a good pace and then have some luck, we'll be right there at the finish."

About his experience at The Glen: "In the early '80s I drove in this race when it was an FIA 'Makes' Race. Coming back now as a team owner and competing in a six hour race means a lot. The course was a little different back then. We ran something called the 'Schechter' Chicane. It was meant to slow the cars going up the hill and then down the backstraight. There was no 'Inner Loop' and it made that end of the track a bit on the fast side."

Bill Lester, Driver: "Anytime you can race at The Glen it's a pleasure. Being able to do it in the top DP class makes it especially thrilling in light of the speeds you carry. Also, the challenges the course present in terms of car setup make it extremely gratifying if you get everything right and you're quick." About his experience at The Glen: "While I have more familiarization with the short course due to running both a NASCAR Busch Grand National and SCCA World Challenge race in that configuration, whereas having only run the long course in a KONI Challenge race, I found the long course to be more fun to drive. The additional series of twists and turns really play to the skills of a true road racer and complement my driving style. You really have to establish a smooth flow behind the wheel to produce competitive times." About his expectations for the Six Hour: "I really believe our team can shine in this event. With Shane and I being consistent, complementary drivers in both speed and technique, we should be able to establish a quick pace and maintain it throughout the whole race. Then once we get that solid result under our belts, we should be able to carry that momentum into the remainder of the season."

Shane Lewis, Driver: "Watkins Glen has so much history; from Formula 1 to Indy Car, NASCAR to Daytona Prototypes, the best of the best have raced here. The Six Hour race at Watkins Glen has become one of the all time classic endurance races. Other than Daytona, it has the most history of any track on our schedule. You want to do well here. You want to win here. You want to be in that record book that says you won 'The Six Hour'."

About his experience at The Glen: "I have won several races at this track, but never the 'Six Hour'. There is nothing I would like more from this weekend's event than to put my name in that record book." About his expectations for the Six Hour: "I am really looking forward to this event. Not only because of its history and the fact that I love the track layout, but because this six hour race could really be an event we at Southard Motorsports could do well at. We showed at Miller last year that we can make good pit calls and we can do good pit stops. We can have a car that can go the distance because the team really does a phenomenal job of prepping the car. I have a smart teammate and I am in great shape and ready to run at the front. This could really be a good event for the whole team."

-credit: sm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Bill Lester , Steve Southard