Driver Spotlight on Shane Lewis

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 14, 2002) -- It took an angry rodeo bull and a broken jaw for Shane Lewis to get the boost he needed into auto racing, but 23 years later he has numerous wins to show for it, including his latest victory at Phoenix ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 14, 2002) -- It took an angry rodeo bull and a broken jaw for Shane Lewis to get the boost he needed into auto racing, but 23 years later he has numerous wins to show for it, including his latest victory at Phoenix International Raceway last month. Lewis has teamed with Joe Nonnamaker in the Planet Earth Motorsports #43 Corvette for the 2002 Grand-Am Cup season, and the duo captured their first win of the season at the UnitedAuto Sport 250 in Phoenix, outrunning defending series champion Powell Motorsports to the checkered flag.

THE BASICS Series: Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series
Class: Grand Sport I
Team: Planet Earth Motorsports
Car: #43 Corvette Z06
Date of Birth: August 8, 1965
Hometown: Jupiter, Fla.
Birthplace: Lancaster, Calif.
Spouse: Crystal

· Three-time IMSA Supercar Race Winner
· Three-time SCCA World Challenge Race Winner
· 1998 Professional Sports Car Racing Rising Star Award
· Daytona Endurance Championship Winner
· Sixteen 24-hour race starts, including two 24 Hours of LeMans and six Rolex 24 At Daytona


When did you begin racing?
I began racing in 1989. I was living in California. I began to build a car to race but ran out of cash. At the same time I was riding bulls in high school rodeo. I was actually pretty good at it and became state champ. I was doing a charity rodeo my senior year and had a great ride. I dismounted and landed on both feet, everything was perfect. I had watched this particular bull a lot of times before, and he did exactly what I thought until the very end. I saw him turn and start to head out of the arena so I tipped my hat to the crowd. Next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital with my jaw wired shut. A couple of skin graphs later my Dad asked me what it would take to get me off the bulls. I asked him to help me finish the race car. The rest is history as they say.

I ran my first race at Willow Springs and then became an instructor there in exchange for the chance to drive. There was an old Formula Ford that hadn't been run in years. I asked the owner if I worked on it, if I could race it. He said 'sure.' I drove that car to two Formula Ford regional championships and a Festival win. Knowing the mechanical side, as well as the driving side, is why I love to develop new race cars. The Orison Marketing - Planet Earth Motorsports Vette is a good example of that. We have developed that car a long way since the beginning. Now we have a really great race car that led every practice session and won the Grand-Am Cup race at Phoenix.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue racing professionally?
From my first race I knew this is what I wanted to do. I guess I really found out when I was asked to join a team at the 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges. It was an amateur enduro in Ohio. The team that asked me to come just wanted a back-up driver. They had a full-team of pros in the car. I didn't even think that I would get to drive, but I made my way to Ohio just in case. I am glad I did. They let me in the car and I outran every one of the pros. The owner couldn't believe it and asked me to qualify the car. I qualified the car on the pole, ran the fastest race lap and won my first 24-hour race overall. That was the first of 16 24-hour races I have run so far including six at Daytona and two at Le Mans.

Do you have any superstitions?
Not a one. I believe in hard work and determination... and a little bit of luck doesn't hurt.

What is your favorite racetrack?
My first professional victory came at Laguna Seca. Being from California and the success I have had there makes that track special. The European tracks I've driven have all been first class. Nurburgring would have to be the best, Le Mans is a close second because of its history. But for an all-around great driving track, the long course at Watkins Glen is at the top of my list. With the win at Phoenix I'd have to say that rushed towards the top too. After all, anywhere you win is going to be a favorite.

What advice would you give a young racer?
Stay focused on your goals. Never, ever burn a bridge; you never know when you might want to walk back across it. Always stay determined to see things through. This isn't an easy sport and it isn't all glitz and glamour. Also, always remember to enjoy the small stuff. The journey along the way is great and you should try and enjoy it for what it is. You always have a set goal in mind and once you get that win or championship you think you'll be happy. But, you always want more. Success is never enough so always enjoy what you have while you have it. I wish someone had told me that a couple of years ago.

What is your most memorable racing moment?
My first professional victory at Laguna Seca. I won, from the pole, in a Corvette, over David Donohue and Andy Pilgrim. We fought tooth and nail that entire race. It was just awesome and I can't think of a better way to get your first win. The series was a lot like the Grand-Am Cup is today, because it had amazing drivers and cars. It was one of the toughest and most competitive series I ever competed in.

What do you find most exciting about racing?
Exciting is sort of relative. I know my favorite part is the competition. Being able to race, head-to-head against another skilled driver is a great experience. When you are in the car you don't think 'Oh, this is exciting.' Putting together the best lap that I can, focusing on my best personal performance is something that I love. I am not sure if it is exciting in the normal sense of the word, but it is very satisfying.

What goals have you set for yourself?
Put myself in a position to win more races and to win the Grand-Am Cup championship with the Nonnamakers. I also want to win the Rolex 24 overall in one of the new Daytona Prototypes. That is a tough race to win and I think the Daytona Prototype class will be very competitive. That would be a great victory.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Always treat people the way you want to be treated. Be a man of your word because, in the end, that is all you have got.

What hobbies do you have outside of racing?
There is a world outside of racing? Seriously, I love the sport and I love to work towards my next goal, be that developing a new car or setting a quick lap. My wife, Crystal, would say that is my life AND my hobby. But, when I get the chance, I love riding motorcycles. I grew up on a bike when I was a kid. So that is a hobby, I guess. I also like to scuba dive when I can, and I love movies. As much as I travel testing and racing, just spending time with my wife seems like the best hobby at times!

Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life?
My grandfather. There is nobody that I would want to be more like. He is respected, loved, honest and hardworking. If I can be a tenth of the man he is, I'll be happy.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
What can I say? Racing fans, especially sports car fans, are the best in the world. And, if I can say so, my supporters are the best of them all. I am always thrilled whenever I pull out onto the track and see a "Go Shane Go!!" banner. It started at Sebring and just grew from there. Now, everywhere I go there is the Shane Lewis Fan Club. We have a big group at the Rolex 24 hour every year and we even have a group at Le Mans. When we won the Grand-Am Cup race at Phoenix, I must have had hundreds of email and phone calls from people congratulating me. That was just awesome. I guess I would just like to say thank you. I can't begin to explain how much the support means to me. It is just such an honor. I have the best fans in the world.

-grand am-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Andy Pilgrim , Joe Nonnamaker