Southard Motorsports continues to make progress at homestead-miami speedway daytona prototype race
Southard Motorsports, featuring drivers Randy Ruhlman and Shane Lewis, headed to Homestead, Florida this weekend for Round Three of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. The team continued to make progress with their new Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype sponsored by Preformed Line Products, while running a successful race at the Grand Prix of Miami weekend at Homestead-Miami road course.
At Round Two in Mexico City, the team establish themselves on track and was the subject of strong television coverage as the No. 3 Preformed Line Product Lexus Riley battled as one of the front running cars in the Daytona Prototype field. This weekend at Homestead, the team hit the southern Florida road course with high expectations when the car came out of the trailer with a strong setup on Thursday. But as the weekend progressed, the team found themselves working hard, trying to overcome the challenge of finding a fast car set-up for the race.
After the first practice session, team felt they had a strong starting point for a competitive setup. Some changes were made to refine the chassis, but by Friday morning, weather conditions had changed and the car had not improved in speed. The team continued to work diligently through practice and qualifying to make progress and gain grip on the 2.3-mile road course that challenges the setup by using Turns Three and Four of the NASCAR oval as well.
Though the car's handling still was less than ideal for the start of the scheduled 109-lap/400K race, with heads-up driving and a good, clean start Ruhlman was able to make his way up five spots to thirteenth by Lap Three. While running closely behind the Michael Shank Racing No. 60 Lexus of Negri and Patterson, an untimely black flag forced the No. 3 car to come in for a stop and go penalty. Pushed to the back of the 38-car field, Ruhlman was able to quickly progress up through the heavy GT traffic despite the handling problems and within 12-laps the car was back up to the DP field in eighteenth overall.
As one of many yellow flags came out and the fuel window had been reached, the majority of the field took the opportunity to pit under caution for fuel and tires. The Southard Motorsports team used the pit stop for tires and fuel and to make some much needed chassis adjustments. The well-executed pit stop also included a flawless driver change that got Shane Lewis quickly into the field, ready to continue the car's march back up through the Daytona Prototype cars.
Despite continuing difficultly with the handling, Lewis was able kept pace, getting the car back up to its previous position, before it slipped back while trying to stay out of trouble. Lewis kept the car in contention, skillfully avoiding many incidents, but it was difficult to gain much ground. By the end of the day, the No. 3 car took the checkered flag in seventeenth place. In this back and forth race, both drivers did an excellent job of driving: each progressed the car as high as thirteenth overall
and both worked through the handling issues that plagued the car and made the competition even harder.
Testing and further development for the cars will occupy the teams before the next race. The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series heads next to Virginia International Raceway, outside Danville, Virginia on April 28th for Round Four of the 2007 Daytona Prototype season.
The No. 3 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype is campaigned by Southard Motorsports of Powell, Ohio. The Riley chassis is powered by Lexus engines with technical expertise by TRD Engineering and carries sponsorship from Preformed Line Products from Mayfield Village, Ohio. Shane Lewis is a four-year veteran of the Southard Motorsports and part of the team's two Grand-Am podium finishes last year. Randy Ruhlman joined the team this year after running last year in Daytona Prototypes and following a successful career in the Trans-Am Series.
Randy Ruhlman has been a professional driver since 1990 and has extensive racing experience, predominantly in road racing in the Trans-Am Series, as well as in IMSA, ASA and the NASCAR short track series. Last year, Ruhlman drove the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype for Derhaag Motorsports. Ruhlman was the top American driver in the 2005 Trans-Am Drivers' Championship, holding the points lead throughout the season and scoring a pair of wins--the season opener at the Long Beach Grand Prix and the Cleveland Grand Prix. Ruhlman was named the 2005 BBS "Most Improved Driver of the Year" and makes the record books as fourth in Top Ten finishes in Trans-Am history.
Lewis is widely considered one of the sports leading development drivers and has competed in twenty-four 24 Hour Races--nine-times in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, three-times at Le Mans and twice at Nürburgring. Always a fan favorite, Shane Lewis earned two Daytona Prototype podium finishes with Southard Motorsports in 2006, at the Long Beach Grand Prix and Phoenix. He has multiple wins in the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series and was the 1998 Professional Sports Car Racing Rising Star award winner. Lewis did double duty this weekend, by also running in the Indy Pro Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Southard Motorsports reflects the goals and dedication of its owners, Steve and Martha Southard, both former drivers themselves in Historic and Professional racing. One of only two teams to have competed in every Grand American Rolex Daytona Prototype Sports Car event since 2004, they have shown the continuity and commitment that are hallmark to all winning programs and the team was pivotal in winning the inaugural Jim Truman Driver's Award. Southard Motorsports' experience and knowledge was highlighted by last year's successful Daytona Prototype season, as they captured two podium finishes, a third at the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix and another third at Phoenix.
Preformed Line Products (PLP) is an international manufacturer and supplier of hardware and support systems for the communications and energy industries. Products include COYOTE® Fiber Optics and VORTEX® Vibration Dampers used in the telecommunications, cable and energy industries. Manufacturing facilities are located worldwide in the USA, Canada, China, Brazil, Mexico, England, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Thailand.