Ashton Lewis pilots Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to ninth place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway HAMPTON, GA (October 26, 2002) -- Under the cloudy, and sometimes drizzly skies at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ashton Lewis, Jr. piloted the Civil Air ...
Ashton Lewis pilots Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to ninth place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway
HAMPTON, GA (October 26, 2002) -- Under the cloudy, and sometimes drizzly skies at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ashton Lewis, Jr. piloted the Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to a ninth place finish in the Aaron's 312. This finish moved Lewis up three positions in drivers points standings to 18th.
Lewis was uncertain of what to expect from his car in the beginning laps of the event, because rain on Friday limited the Busch cars to one 40 minute practice session. He was, however, confident that the car could be fixed to his liking during pit stops. The car he ran in this race, car number five, is Lewis' favorite because it adapts to changes so well. Lewis started the race in the 25th position. For the first part of the race the car felt fine, but by lap 25 the car was getting tight. The team decided not to pit during the first two cautions of the event (the first on lap six and the second on lap 15) because they knew NASCAR would be throwing a competition caution around lap 25 for the teams to make adjustments. NASCAR typically does this when the cars have had little to no track time before an event. Lewis made his first pit stop under caution on lap 28. The crew made a wedge bolt adjustment and filled the car with fuel and sent Lewis back on the track. They gained nine positions on the track with that quick pit stop. The field was kept under caution for around ten laps because of a light rain, but it never became a problem and the green flag was finally put out again on lap 38. On lap 62, the number 12 of Kerry Earnhardt spun in turn two just in front of Lewis. He was able to shoot down onto the apron of the track and avoid the wreck. Unbeknownst to him, he had damaged the front valance of the car, which would prove to be a problem. The team took advantage of this caution to make their second pit stop. They made air pressure adjustments in the rear tires, and a track bar adjustment along with four tires and fuel. Once again, they had a fantastic pit stop and Lewis gained seven positions on the track. The green flag was thrown on lap 69, and by lap 83 Lewis had fallen back to 25th position. The damage that was done to the front valance made the car extremely tight. Lewis was struggling to keep his car in the 25th position when the sixth and final caution of the race came out on lap 122 for oil on the track. Lewis pitted on lap 123 and took four tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment, but most importantly for the crew to fix the valance. He lost three track positions, but could tell immediately that the car was handling much better. When the field was shown the "one to go" signal, crew chief Charlie Lewis made the decision to have Lewis pit and top off the fuel. He took the green flag in 21st position, but Charlie's decision paid off at the end of the race. Now that Lewis had the car handling the way he wanted, he was able to work his way steadily through the field, occasionally running lap times as quick as the leader. As the laps wound down, Lewis worked his way into the top ten, and finished in a solid ninth place. When asked about the race and his finish, Lewis replied, "We were real tight at the start of the race. The car was tight getting in, tight through the center and a little bit free off. I knew if we fixed it we would be alright. We made an adjustment on the first caution, and made another adjustment on the second one. Apparently I knocked the valance in when I was avoiding Kerry's (Earnhardt) wreck and I did not realize it. Since I didn't tell the crew anything, they didn't get a chance to fix it during that pit stop, and that caused the car to be really tight. It wasn't behaving like it was before, it just felt real light on the front tires." "The crew took a little bit of extra time on that last caution, and did a really great job of fixing it (the valance). They made a really smart decision right before we went green and topped off the fuel so we could try and go the rest of the way. We have really been working on our fuel mileage since we've seen a few races that have been won on it. It (fuel mileage) bit us at Chicago and Kentucky, we should have had a top three finish at both of those tracks, so that was kind of bittersweet. We didn't get our third place, but we did get a top ten and we needed that desperately." The next race on the schedule is the Sam's Club 200 at North Carolina Speedway on November 2. The race will be aired live starting at 12:30 pm ET on both TNT and MRN. Qualifying for the race will take place November 1 at 1:30 pm ET.