This week’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway is a big one for Shane Lee, as it marks his Xfinity Series debut and first race of the season with Richard Childress Racing.
Lee has been busy since the start of the year preparing for his first turn in the driver’s seat, observing race weekends at the track, visiting the RCR campus throughout the week and racing in a super late model event during Easter weekend.
Lee attended the race weekends at Daytona and Atlanta in hope that being at the track while not being in the race car will be beneficial.
"I think it helps me get to know the RCR team, especially the No. 3 team that I’ll be working with during the year." Lee said. "It’s also good for me to hear Austin (Dillon) and Ty (Dillon) on the radio to learn how they describe how the car is handling. That way I can use similar terms when I’m in the car so the team knows what I’m talking about."
Taking Advantage of Simulator Time
When he’s not at the race track, Lee is frequently making trips to the RCR campus during the week for pit practice, simulator time and more chances to meet with his team.
– Shane Lee (@ShaneLeeRacing) April 7, 2018
"The simulator work is what I’ve been spending most my time on and either racing at the shop or on my iRacing rig at home." Lee said. "I’m on iRacing all the time. That normally helps me a lot with prepping for a race, but at the same time I haven’t raced Bristol before, so I’m not sure how closely it will relate to the actual track."
RCR’s simulation program manager, Ryan Isabell, echoed what Lee had to say about his preparation.
"Shane has been spending time on our simulators working with us on the upcoming tracks where he will be racing," Isabell said. "He has been utilizing our simulators to get familiar with both the layouts of the garage and tracks as well as testing different vehicle setup packages. He will definitely be ahead of the curve compared to some of the other drivers who have not been to these tracks before."
"Simulation has its benefits for both driver training and vehicle performance, helping to make practice sessions more efficient from both the vehicle dynamics and time efficiency standpoints," Isabell said. "During a practice session, we may make as few as four runs and as many as 10 or more runs. If we are able to save time and fit as little as one more run in a session, it can be a big advantage."
Getting to know the No. 3 team
Lee also knows the importance of camaraderie.
"I also go to eat lunch with the No. 3 team about every time I’m up at the shop so we all know each other fairly well by this point," Lee said.
Lee has never raced at Bristol Motor Speedway. But he believes his experience in the ARCA Racing Series and his recent super late model race at Hickory Motor Speedway will help him adapt to the track quickly.
"I have some experience in the ARCA Racing series at tracks like Salem and Winchester and I think those can be pretty similar to Bristol. They don’t have as much grip or are anywhere near as smooth as Bristol, but banking-wise and speed-wise they should correlate."
Lee recently ran the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway during the holiday weekend, finishing second.
"The race at Hickory was mainly to get me back into a car and back into the feel of things than it was to practice for Bristol. The cars are different of course, but overall the feel of being in the driver’s seat is about the same and it got my mind where it needs to be. It made me feel better than if I had shown up at Bristol and not run a lap since last November."
Setting goals for his time in the driver’s seat
Goals? Lee and his team have set a few for this weekend’s debut.
"Heading into Bristol, for practice I’m looking to get comfortable with everything and feel good about what we have for the race. For qualifying, I’d really like to make the final round. If we finish in the top-10 for the first race, I’d be really happy, but overall I’m just excited to finally make my first start with RCR this weekend." Lee said.
Tune in to Lee’s debut race with RCR when the Xfinity Series visits Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 14 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.