HOMESTEAD, FL (November 16, 2002) -- Ashton Lewis, Jr. piloted the Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to a ninth place finish in the season finale Ford 300 at Homestead Miami Speedway. This top ten finish moved Lewis up to 17th place in driver's points, and moved car owner Ashton Lewis, Sr. to 22nd place in owner's points.
"It's definitely the way we wanted to end the 2002 season, with that kind of solid run," Lewis said.
Lewis qualified the CAP Chevrolet in the 13th position, with a lap time of 35.519. The pole position was won by the No. 21 of Jeff Green, with a lap time of 35.825. The members of the CAP race team were a bit concerned after 'Happy Hour' when they did not achieve the speed they knew they would need to be competitive. After brainstorming Friday evening, the crew made some changes to the car on Saturday morning before the race.
"I was a little bit concerned when the race first started. The car felt pretty good, but I got caught up in traffic and I didn't want to get too aggressive that early on. I knew Charlie (Lewis, Crew Chief) and Butch (Lamoreux, Car Chief ) would do a good job working on it. They made some great adjustments," Lewis said.
Early in the race Lewis struggled with the car being tight through the center, and free off. On lap 22, during the first caution of the race, the CAP crew had the opportunity to make some changes.
Even though the car was still a bit tight, Lewis discovered that if he used the apron of the track he could roll through the center of the turns. By lap 74 he was not only tight in the turns, but tight off. On lap 93 Lewis brought the CAP Chevrolet down pit road for a green flag pit stop. The crew put on four tires, filled the car with fuel, made air pressure adjustments and a track bar adjustment.
After this pit stop, Lewis was happy with the car saying it was "just a tick free off". On lap 112 the third caution flag of the day came out and the team decided to pit. They put on two tires and topped off the fuel. This quick pit stop put Lewis in fourth position. He was extremely competitive with the leaders, staying in the top six until lap 186. Crew Chief Charlie Lewis knew that the CAP Chevrolet would be about four laps short on fuel and they would have to stop. When the leader came down pit road on lap 186 to top off on fuel, Lewis did the same. He made a three second pit stop, but came back out on the track in eleventh position with twelve laps to go. By the time the checkered flag fell, Lewis had worked his way to the ninth position.
"There at the end of the race I was just a little too free coming off of the turns to run it hard like I wanted to. I think the two tire pit stop was a great decision, it was probably just a little bit of a disadvantage towards the end of the run."
"Today the team just did such a great job, it's exactly what we needed going into the winter. We've had three top ten finishes in the last four races, and it just seems that we are really starting to put it all together. I think this is great momentum for the 2003 season."