Shane Lewis' Road to Indy Homestead Oval Shows Strength of Lewis-Crawford Combination HOMESTEAD, FL., March 28, 2007 -- They call it the "Road to Indy" and, for Shane Lewis, that is exactly what it is. The Jupiter, Florida-resident has a map...
Shane Lewis' Road to Indy
Homestead Oval Shows Strength of Lewis-Crawford Combination
HOMESTEAD, FL., March 28, 2007 -- They call it the "Road to Indy" and, for Shane Lewis, that is exactly what it is. The Jupiter, Florida-resident has a map that charts his course to the biggest race of his career, the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500, and to date, Lewis has paid all the tolls. The 24- time, 24 Hour race starter has joined Michael Crawford Motorsports and together the two are working, step-by-step, to field a competitive entry for Indianapolis this "Month of May". The native of Lancaster, Calif. continued his "Road to Indy" this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway by making his open wheel, oval debut in the Indy Pro Series Miami 100. There, the sports car ace immediately showed he is also a top-performer on the high-speed ovals.
Lewis left little doubt in the minds of even the most jaded oval racing aficionado that he could wheel a formula-style car around an oval. His Indy Pro Series test, held at Homestead-Miami on February 22, gave Indy Racing League officials a clear sign that he had the skill and was not only comfortable at speed but a natural. Once clear of the first hurdle, Lewis and team owner Michael Crawford (Indianapolis, Ind.) had hoped to get the three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans starter quickly through his IndyCar Series rookie test. Fate would intervene though in that the team does not yet have available a 2007-spec GForce chassis. Therefore, they opted to get valuable seat time in the No. 8 Michael Crawford Motorsports Indy Pro Series Dallara.
Lewis got off to an inspiring start running fifth quickest in his group at the first practice session of the weekend. As if to show it was no fluke, the former high school bull riding champion in tthe state of California took the bit in his teeth and turned a qualifying time that would place him second-quickest for much of the qualifying session. It was not until later in the session, as track conditions improved, did Lewis slip from second to seventh on the grid of 28 cars. However, the team was ecstatic with the remarkable performance and set-about preparing the car for the race.
Race day, a double for Lewis who was also working as lead driver on the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Daytona Prototype in the Grand-Am Rolex Series, dawned with great anticipation. With Lewis' ever- present fan club cheering him with their "Go Shane, Go!!!" banners, he took the green flag and began to work with a car that was much different than it had been earlier in the weekend. Lewis came to terms with the single-seater and began to make his move back towards the front when the first of two major accidents took place immediately in front of him. Lewis, who was tucked in behind another car, slowed immediately with the yellow flag but suddenly saw the car he was following snap to the left and he found himself bearing-down on the nose assembly of one of the cars involved. He narrowly squeaked by the bodywork and was unharmed in the first major accident of the race on lap 21.
Having learned a lesson of the large debris field that can be caused when two open wheel cars try and occupy the same track space, Lewis was more wary when he saw two more disintegrating Indy Pro Series cars before him on lap 47. Despite nearly missing the carnage, a piece of debris from Pablo Perez's car would end Lewis' day just as he was about to re-enter the top-ten. Lewis felt his No. 8 Dallara lift slightly and, before he knew it, it rotated and started to back into the outside wall. He fought the car but found his steering input futile. His brake pedal was working and he drug the car, almost by his own will, to a stop just feet before impacting the Homestead-Miami retaining wall. Unhurt and with the car apparently intact, but unable to start, Lewis called for help so that he could stay on the lead lap. When the Indy Racing League Safety Team went to pull the car to a start they found it would not move. Lewis was stuck in place not by his own brakes or flat tires but, instead, by the brake and clutch pedal off of Perez's demolished car. The two unlikely parasites had lodged themselves onto the undertray of the car. It was this debris, that neither Lewis or his spotter could see on the track as he approached the crash site, that cost the multi-time Grand-Am sanctioned event winner a top-ten finish in his open wheel, oval debut.
Despite the disappointment of watching the top-ten finish fall to a 20th-place result, Lewis and Crawford saw a great deal of positives come from this effort. The communication between driver and team, an essential part of any program at Indianapolis, was excellent. The speed of Lewis and his ability to adapt to the cars impressed all around him and his dedication and work ethic to make the program a success is a testimony to Lewis' commitment to his dream.
Lewis will test the Michael Crawford Motorsports IndyCar in April to earn his IndyCar Series driver license. Once that milestone is met, Lewis will move- on to the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he will, for the first time, strap-in and lap the 2.5-mile oval as part of the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) just days before official practice opens for all at the "Speedway". Once cleared through ROP, Lewis will begin the month-long process of filling one of the 33 positions on the grid for the "500", the final mile marker on the "Road to Indy" and on the way to making his dream of being an Indy 500 starter come true.
(About running in the Indy Pro Series): "Running the Indy Pro Series weekend at Homestead-Miami was a great experience and experience is what I was looking for. I not only had the chance to work on a race and qualifying set up, I had the opportunity to race in heavy traffic, work the draft and learn to manage the car when you lose the air off the wings. These are things you can't do in testing. You need to learn them first hand in competition. We had 28 guys out there fighting hard for every position. Talk about baptism by fire!"
(About his experience): "While I hated being taken-out of the race by debris from a wreck, I am happy that I was able to keep the car off the outside wall. One of the things I have learned in my years of racing is a little patience goes a long way. There's a time to go flat out and there is a time to be calculating in the race car. Hopefully all of this will make my transition into the Indy 500 that much better. The guys at Michael Crawford Motorsports were great to work with. We each have a goal and we are doing our best to join together to reach that goal this May. Michael and his entire team are focused on that, the same way I am. They have gone above and beyond in so many ways. It is a pleasure and an honor to get to work with this team."
Michael Crawford, Owner: "Shane single- handedly elevated our program. His character, his ability, his insight all contributed to a successful weekend. We've worked with some really good drivers over the course of the last two seasons but Shane's feedback is phenomenal. The breadth of knowledge that he brings to the team helped us in many areas. We were 6/100ths [of a second] from sitting on our first provisional pole. It was a mutually beneficial experience in the sense that Shane was able to help us and we were able to demonstrate the capabilities of our team. In an incident-riddled race our results do not accurately demonstrate the successes we experienced over the course of the weekend. I had numerous peers stop by and congratulate us over the course of the weekend. And, but for an accident, we had, at least initially no involvement in, our weekend would have finished with a solid top-ten that would have shown that we are capable of running with anyone. The bottom-line is, looking at our goals from when we began our relationship, we more than achieved them in preparing both the team and Shane for the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully, we can gather-up the resources for the Indianapolis 500. I know that we can put Shane Lewis into the show."