A few weeks ago, Gary Lewis found himself 240 points behind in the NASCAR Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series championship chase and he knew that wasn't the place for a former series champion. So Lewis did something about it.
Since July, Lewis has claimed seven straight Bud Fast Qualifier awards and he's won the four consecutive races, the latest coming in Friday's Lowe's 125 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. The entire string of success coincides with the release of Goodyear's latest generation of Eagle short track tires.
"Early on, we did have some troubles with engines, wrecks and tires, but we didn't let that get us down," Lewis said. "The second half (of the season) the tires have been perfect. You have to have a tire that allows you to be aggressive on the track and can run the distance without giving up at the end and Goodyear's worked real hard to design that type of tire. We've had that going for us the last few months and we've been capitalizing on that. Now were on top and it's all coming back to us."
Lewis' change of fortune hasn't gone unnoticed among his rivals. Whereas in July, there were just four drivers using Goodyear tires, fully 17 of the 27 qualifiers started at Monroe on Goodyear Eagles, including five of the top six qualifiers. Goodyear-shod cars took three of the top five spot in the race, as well. Rookie driver Gaylon Stewart came in second while Shane Biles, who started the Goodyear winning streak at Kalispell, Mont., was fifth.
Lewis started fourth after the inversion, but quickly worked his way into second place behind John Bender. The two were the class of the field through the first half, but tires played a critical role in the closing laps. With Lewis already in the lead, Bender couldn't stick to the low line during a late-race restart. Bender blocked a challenge from Biles with five laps to go, allowing Stewart to slip underneath for second.
"Finishing second to Gary Lewis is like winning a race," said Stewart. "He has been so tough lately. I feel pretty good just holding my own with him once we got by Shane and John there at the end."
The win, coupled with Ken Kaltschmidt's 10th place and Garrett Evans' sixth, propelled Lewis into the points lead with one race remaining at Yakima Speedway on September 23.
Gold became silver for Mike Ewanitsko, as the New York driver recorded his second NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series win of the season and the 25th of his career in the New Hampshire 100 at Loudon, N.H. Ted Christopher gave up the lead with seven laps remaining and Ewanitsko pulled out a 1.763-second margin at the finish. The Goodyear-equipped cars of John Blewitt III, Rick Fuller and Dan Avery came in third, fourth and fifth.
Jimmy Britts was the class of the field in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series race at Hickory, N.C. After winning his third Bud Pole award, Britts was engaged in an early race duel with B.J. Mackey, then fended off the challenges of Robert Huffman to win by 1.15 seconds. Roger Sawyer, Mackey and Cam Strader rounded out the top five.
Bobby Gill found his way back to victory circle during the USAR Hooters ProCup Series meet at Montgomery, Ala., winning his record-tying seventh race of the season. The race featured six leaders, 13 cautions and one red-flag period, but Gill remained near the front throughout. He took the lead for the final time on lap 209 of 250 and pulled away from Mardy Lindley for the win. Clay Rogers, Mike Laughlin Jr. and Steven Christian completed the Goodyear top-five.
Racing continues to wind down in Canada as the penultimate CASCAR Castrol Super Series West race took place at Calgary's Race City Speedway. Alberta driver Daryl Harr took the lead from Don Sales with 13 laps remaining for his first series win. Kevin Dowler, who led the first 154 laps, hung on for third and took the championship lead from Harr's father Carl, who came in fifth.
Goodyear racers came away with four wins at the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa. Bruce Sarver scored his first NHRA win and gave the new Goodyear Eagle D1230 Top Fuel/Funny Car tire its first win in Funny Car, defeating Ron Capps in a close race, 4.993 seconds and 303.03 mph to 5.063/297.73.
Pennsylvania's Joe Amato successfully defended his Top Fuel title at Reading, denying Gary Scelzi his record seventh win of the season by 0.007 second, 4.626 to 4.633 seconds. Scelzi did gain some satisfaction as he regained the championship lead from Tony Schumacher. The margin is just eight points with five races remaining in the series.
Pro Stock was an all-Goodyear family affair as Kurt Johnson beat his father Warren at the start line, cruising to the easy win. Finally, Jerry Arnold got his first Comp Eliminator win when Stephen Szupka redlighted in the final round.
Goodyear is continuing to clean up in the International Hot Rod Association, taking nine wins at the Amalie Oil North American Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. Top Fuel veteran Jim Head scored his first IHRA win, defeating Clay Millican, who had earlier set a new IHRA elapsed time record at 4.683 seconds. Earlier, Bruce Litton set a new IHRA speed record at 313.37 mph.
Other wins for the Eagles came from Doug Yancil (Nitro Harley), Scott Weney (Funny Car), Jon Yoak (Pro Stock), Laurie Cannister (Pro Outlaw), Sandy Wilkins (Top Sportsman), Slate Cummings (Top Dragster), John Markwat (Modified) and Craig Rice (ET).
Goodyear-equipped cars looked strong during the preliminaries at the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. Tim Shaffer and Johnny Herrera scored a Goodyear 1-2 in the Thursday prelim when Greg Hodnett broke a drive shaft with three laps remaining. The next night was all Darryn Pittman's, as the youngster held off Jac Haudenschild and Danny Lasoski to score his first Outlaws' win. Lasoski earned the feature win on Saturday after a race-long duel with Shaffer, the top Goodyear finisher. Mark Kinser and Sammy Swindell finished third and fourth.
Meanwhile, Paul McMahan keeps winning in the Gumout Racing Series. The United Expressline driver won his third race in three weekends, this time at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. McMahan grabbed the lead on a first-lap restart and ran away from Brad Furr, Shane Stewart and Jason Meyers.