This Week in Ford Racing April 18, 2006 NASCAR Busch Series Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford Fusion, is set to reach a milestone this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway when he starts his 200th career Busch Series race.
This Week in Ford Racing
April 18, 2006
NASCAR Busch Series
Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford Fusion, is set to reach a milestone this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway when he starts his 200th career Busch Series race. Lewis, who spent the early part of his career driving for a family-owned team, reflected on his tenure in the Busch Series and previewed this weekend's Bashas' 200.
ASHTON LEWIS, JR.--No. 25 United States Marines Ford Fusion
THIS WEEKEND AT PHOENIX WILL MARK YOUR 200TH CAREER BUSCH SERIES START. TALK ABOUT THAT MILESTONE AND WHETHER YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE IN THIS SERIES FOR THAT DURATION. "It's kind of two-fold. It's good to be able to be in the Busch Series this long and I think to be competitive. I feel like I'm more competitive today than I was when we got in it as far a team and situation. I never thought I would be in it this long. It was always the goal to run two or three seasons at most in the Busch Series and then get an opportunity to move up. It's still an accomplishment and it's still something that I'm proud of, but I still hope that the Busch Series is a stepping stone to Nextel Cup."
IT SEEMED LIKE THE DRIVER-TEAM TENURES USED TO BE LONGER IN THE BUSCH SERIES COMPARED TO NEXTEL CUP. IS THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGING WHERE DRIVERS HAVE LESS TIME TO ESTABLISH CHEMISTRY WITH THEIR TEAMS? "I think so. I think it's going to change just because of the fact, and I think that's the reason why there isn't as much loyalty in the Cup Series, whenever you get money involved in it -- and a lot of money -- and as the money escalates, the patience for performance goes down. With the Busch Series getting to a point where it's awfully expensive to run and especially to be competitive at the top level, I don't think that teams are going to have a lot of patience, or as much patience as they used to have with the performance side of it."
YOU WERE TEAMED WITH JASON KELLER LAST YEAR AT TEAM RENSI. WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY THAT HE HAD SPLIT WITH PHOENIX RACING? "It surprised the heck out of me, especially with them just getting together. With Jason having his prior success and Finch and Phoenix Racing having success on their own, you would have thought they would allowed at least a little bit more time for two proven entities to kind of get on the same page."
WITH LAST WEEKEND'S RACE AT NASHVILLE BEING A STANDALONE EVENT, DID YOU FEEL LIKE IT WAS MORE OF AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD? "I do. I enjoy Nashville. It's a great race track and it's a lot of fun racing there. You don't want to harp on it going in and you don't want to harp on it afterwards, but Nashville has become a test track for the Cup teams. We knew going into it, even though it was going to be a standalone event, it was still going to be an uphill battle, or you knew the competition was going to be the same guys you're fighting week in and week out. It may not be as many of them, but they're still going to have the upper hand on you, as they are everywhere, but I do think it leveled the playing field some."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S EVENT A PHOENIX? HAS YOU R TEAM MADE ENOUGH PROGRESS TO BEGIN BATTLING FOR THE WIN AT THE END OF A RACE? "I have high expectations going into Phoenix just because of last year. We had a car in practice that we felt like was the best car, and had several people tell that us before the race, and just got caught up in an early accident. Just going back there, it's a track that I've always been able to get around fairly well. I have a lot of confidence going into Phoenix, and I think with the momentum that the team has built -- we still have some nagging problems or teething problems that we have to get through -- but we're definitely making ground on it, and I feel like Phoenix is definitely a race track and a race where we can put everything together and have an extremely strong showing. I really think that's right around the corner for this race team. I feel like our speed is there. I feel like as far the whole package, we're putting the team together that's going to be able to compete with them, maybe not as much as we would like to week in and week out, but on a given weekend, I feel like we can go up there and race with the best of them. I certainly feel like Phoenix is one of these race tracks that we can go to and really compete and be a strong contender for the race win. It's still pretty much of an aero track because of turns three and four. One and two is more like a short track, and I think some experience as far as driving at Phoenix pays off. I know the first time I went there I really struggled with it, so I talked to some drivers and watched a lot of drivers on how they got around the place and learned a lot, and ever since then I felt like I've been able to get around there pretty much as well as anybody. I just think with my experience going into it -- and I have quite a few starts there now -- and Charlie (Lewis, crew chief) and the team and with the cars that they're putting beneath me, if we could just get rid of some of these little teething problems and stuff like having jack bolts back out, I think we can race with them all day long."