21-YEAR-OLD GETS ANOTHER CAREER BEST, FINDS HIMSELF IN TOP-FIVE IN POINTS CONCORD, NC (June 19, 2006) -- Charles Lewandoski had a lot to prove at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. He wanted to prove to himself that he belonged in the...
21-YEAR-OLD GETS ANOTHER CAREER BEST, FINDS HIMSELF IN TOP-FIVE IN POINTS
CONCORD, NC (June 19, 2006) -- Charles Lewandoski had a lot to prove at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. He wanted to prove to himself that he belonged in the top tier of drivers in the NASCAR Busch East Series. He wanted to prove to his family and friends that came to see him at his home track that he's not the same driver of the last couple of years. He wanted to also prove to the rest of his competitors that his career-best finish of seventh at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the Busch East opener wasn't a fluke.
Lewandoski proved it all, besting his finish in Greenville by earning a sixth-place finish in Friday night's TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway.
"We were hooked up," said Lewandoski, who affectionately goes by the nickname "ChaLew." "We were good in practice and qualified good for the first time in my entire life, Quarter Midgets and all. It was the first time ever, so it feels pretty good to get over that.
"Right now, we are just fast. It's so easy to go fast now. We still aren't the car to beat, so we got some work to do, but we just unload and we are close. Last year we would unload and we would almost need a full day of testing to just get the baseline down at the track, and then two hours of practice on top of that. Now we can go, unload and have two hours of practice and we are ready to go."
ChaLew pinpoints a lot of the success on two aspects of his career. First, he is another year more mature behind the wheel, and second, he's got the help of friend and former Busch East and NASCAR Busch Series drivers Paul Wolfe.
"Paul Wolfe has been a huge part of my turn around. Our worst finish since we started working together, which was last year, is 11th. I think he is 99-percent of the reason we've been running even better. I am patient now he keeps me calm. I was a little bit on the edge in previous years. Paul is the man and my guys are great. The other percent just me just gaining some experience."
The race went well for Lewandoski from the start. He qualified seventh and hung in the top-seven or eight most of the night at his home track. Lewandoski was a former regular at Stafford in the Late Model Division, where he was the youngest driver to ever win at the age of 16.
"We are just good right now and we kept it up tonight. We had a top five car I think. I don't think we ran outside of the top 10 all night. We backed up some on the start and came back through and moved up and just rode in the top 10. I learned a lot from those guys up front and I am catching up to where I should have been last year. It's good, but I am disappointed with finishing sixth.
"This place (Stafford) means a lot to me and to run well here is awesome. I have nothing in racing that means more to me than this place and I don't think that it will ever change. I am always a little unclear in my mind about running in the Busch East cars here because there is so much going on and so many people coming to see me. I usually put it behind me, but it seems that I have had a curse here the last couple of years. I guess it's gone now."
Lewandoski, who referred to himself as "Stroker" during the Stafford weekend, might have had a little help from an old friend as well.
"The 'Stroker' decal is tribute to Jack Arute Sr. Mark (Arute, General Manager of Stafford and Jack Arute's son) came over on a golf cart and gave me a nod and said that's cool, almost like a 'thank you.' That family has always been good to me and it's not right coming here with out Jack. It was the best way that I could respect him with a tribute since I was in North Carolina and couldn't make it to any of the services. This was just a thank you to him for all the kind words and advice he gave to me."
Now, Lewandoski finds himself in another position he's never been before, in the top-five in the Busch East point standings. Because of that, he'll travel to Holland International Speedway in New York for the Fuccillo Auto Park HUGE 150. Lewandoski wasn't planning to run the race before the season started, but with his strong start, he's adding it to his schedule.
"Holland is one of my favorite tracks to drive. We weren't even going to go to that race, but now we are coming. We are going to make some arrangements and figure out what to do. We were running good that was the best part of it."