This Week in Ford Racing November 1, 2005 NASCAR Busch Series Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford, took over the Team Marines ride at the beginning of the season and unknowingly inherited tens of thousands of new fans. Lewis,...
This Week in Ford Racing
November 1, 2005
NASCAR Busch Series
Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford, took over the Team Marines ride at the beginning of the season and unknowingly inherited tens of thousands of new fans. Lewis, who spent the early part of his racing career driving for a family-owned team, spoke about various experiences representing the Marine Corps and the value of their NASCAR relationship.
ASHTON LEWIS, JR.-25-Team Marines Ford Taurus
YOU HAD AN EVENTFUL WEEKEND OFF LAST WEEK. WHAT DID YOU DO?
"The Marine Corps had its annual marathon in the D.C. area, and it was the 30th anniversary of the event, which was a pretty big deal in itself. They originally invited us up there to do an autograph signing, but I told them I'd like to run in it, and we decided to run the 8K race, which is a support race for the marathon. Rob Winchester at Rensi, who handles the account, went there and ran with me. I really enjoyed it and got to show a little bit of support for the Marines. I got to see some of the Marines there, and especially all of the people that were there supporting the Marines. It was a really neat event."
WHAT OTHER ACTIVITIES HAVE YOU DONE THIS YEAR WITH THE MARINES?
"We've done two big things this year. We went to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego, and that's the Paris Island of the west coast, and I got to see what a new recruit goes through. The next day we went to Camp Pendleton and I got to see the equipment that they have and the type of machinery that they use. I got to run around in an Amtrack in the water and shot a few rounds of the M-4, which is the machine gun they use. That part of it is neat, and it's good to see and to interact with them and find out what the Marines go through and the type of stuff they work with in protecting our freedom."
HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DRIVING THE MARINES CAR BEEN WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
"I tell everybody that when I first signed up to drive the Team Marines Ford that I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it was going to mean to represent them and what the Marines stood for. I got to go to Washington, D.C., and got to see the Sunset Parade and watched the silent drill team, and I've gone to Quantico, but the biggest thing a person can do to really understand what it means to be a Marine is to actually meet a group Marines and talk to them. Once you spend and an hour with a Marine and find out how passionate they are about the Corps and what it's done for them, then you understand what this NASCAR program is all about. For so many people the Marine Corps has been their guidance and it showed them a lot of life-learning experiences, and that experience is the basis for their core values and teaches them how to conduct themselves. That's the neat part about it. For me, you're not pushing a product, but a way of life. You're pushing the front-line fighting force defending our freedom. These are the guys that are out there fighting the enemy face to face. They're doing the hand-to-hand combat, and that's the honor in representing them because they are very, very special people."
THE MARINES PARTNERSHIP WITH TEAM RENSI IS NOT LIKE MOST BUSCH SERIES SPONSORSHIPS WHERE YOU ENTERTAIN CUSTOMERS AND LOCAL EMPLOYEES.
"At Memphis we hosted a Marine that came back from Iraq injured. He suffered a head wound and has lost a lot of the ability on his right side, but to see him face to face and still see how passionate how he was about the Corps and how proud he was for what he's done for this country - as he should be - but again, when you get to talk to them and they tell you how much they enjoy the racing part of it and how much it means to them, it definitely gets you that little extra motivation to perform on the track and make them proud. I tell everybody that if we go out there and run well enough where the Marine Corps and all of the people involved in the program, if they say that they're proud of the program and the performance that we accomplish and the way that we represent them, then to me that's being successful."
DO YOU FIND THAT A LOT OF THE CURRENTLY ENLISTED MARINES FOLLOW THE ON-TRACK PERFORMANCE OF THE CAR?
"So many of them enjoy NASCAR, and then when they find out that the Marine Corps has it's own car they really get into it. It amazes me how many of the Marines follow it, especially when they're in Iraq. They get the updates and they occasionally get to see the races on TV, and when they tell me that they're always watching where that Marines car is running and pulling for it, that's awesome to think that while they're over there doing what they're doing there's paying attention to what we're doing over here. It's providing that little bit of home-away-from-home comfort and it takes away from all of the stresses that they have over there, and I think that's just incredible."
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO SEE THE SOON-TO-BE-RELEASED MOVIE 'JARHEAD'?
"One of the recruiters from a local recruiting station gave us a bunch of tickets to see a pre-screening to it. I'll certainly go see it."