BUSCH: Las Vegas: Ashton Lewis race notes

The chips do not fall in Lewis' favor at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. LAS VEGAS, NV (March 1, 2003) -- For the third time, in as many weeks, weather was a major factor during the Sam's Town 300 weekend at the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor...

The chips do not fall in Lewis' favor at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

LAS VEGAS, NV (March 1, 2003) -- For the third time, in as many weeks, weather was a major factor during the Sam's Town 300 weekend at the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The first weather obstacle was for the car haulers, as they ran into a major storm in Texas. Severe ice slowed the trucks down to a mere fifteen miles in thirteen hours. Add to that the fact that this trip followed a Monday race at Rockingham, and you can imagine the delay was most unwelcome.

On Thursday, the team was able to unload the car and pass inspection without any problems. Friday morning started with rain showers, which increased in strength before finally stopping in the early afternoon. Morning practice and qualifying were both cancelled, but there was a 'Happy Hour' session held that evening. During this session, driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. posted a quick lap of 33.012, which was .501 behind the fast time set by Kevin Harvick. The starting lineup was set based on the 2002 points standings, which had Lewis starting in the 18th position.

The team felt very comfortable with the car because they had tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in January, and that test went very well. Crew Chief Charlie Lewis knew they had lots of information from that test that they could utilize during the race to fix the car to Asthon's liking.

When Lewis climbed into his car Saturday morning, he was certain that it was one of the best cars he had been in, and he would not have any problems moving quickly to the front. Unfortunately for the CAP racing team, the odds were against them throughout the race. By lap 31, Lewis had told the crew that the car was changing from being loose to being tight and that the steering felt heavy. On lap 40, Lewis was put a lap down by the race leader, and came down pit road during green flag conditions to have the crew work on his car. They put on four tires and made track bar and wedge adjustments. When Lewis made it back onto the track, he was two laps down.

A caution flag came out on lap 63 (the third caution of the day), and Lewis came back down pit road so the team could lift the hood and check fluid levels. He came in two other times during this caution period to top off the fuel, put on tires and make a track bar adjustment.

Even after these changes, the car was still not handling well. When the fourth caution came out on lap 75, the team tried making a wedge adjustment. Nothing was working to help the car, and shortly after the half way point driver Ashton Lewis said "This is the most disappointing day I have ever had in a racecar."

When the red flag was put out for rain, the team discovered an oil leak that would have to be fixed before Lewis could get back out on the track. After a 58 minute red flag, the caution was finally put out and Lewis was able to guide the car into his pit so the crew could repair the leak. Even with all of these problems, Lewis who was as low as 37th at one point, was able to finish in 27th place. This finish places him 21st in owner's points.

After the race, the crew discovered that the power steering box had gone bad, which is why the car had so many handling problems that could not be fixed. They also found where an oil line had been burned through, causing the oil leak.

"I just don't know how to express how disappointed I am about this event. My team did such a great job making adjustments to the car, but now we know why none of those changes worked. We had such high hopes here after testing so well here in January, but obviously we were not lucky in Vegas."

The next race will be the Darlington Raceway.com 200 at Darlington Raceway. The race will be aired live on FX and MRN beginning at 12:30 ET on Saturday, March 15, 2003. Qualifying for the event will take place Thursday, March 13 at 3:05 pm ET and will be aired live on Speedchannel.


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Drivers Kevin Harvick , Ashton Lewis