Bill Lewis wins International Truck Challenge

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#77 Jasper Motorsports Team registers third championship in two weeks as Bill "Stump" Lewis wins NASCAR Winston Cup Series title for transporter drivers, sponsored by International.

ATLANTA, GA--Knowing your equipment is a big part success in any motorsports discipline, and Bill Lewis' perspective on becoming the top NASCAR Winston Cup transporter driver for 2002 was no different than other series champions.

Lewis, who won the International Truck Challenge competition at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, is the only driver among 28 who competed in the four 2002 events who regularly drives an International tractor in his regular job, as driver of the #77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford Team.

With over 65,000 miles logged annually safely delivering Dave Blaney's Winston Cup cars to 38 events and numerous tests coast-to-coast, Lewis felt like driving familiar machinery in the season-finale had to be an advantage as he entered the final morning's competition on the course along the front-stretch at AMS.

"We all drive thousands of miles every year in our trucks, and you just get to know the feel of what's under you," said Lewis, who shared the title with wife Cindy, his partner in life and his co-driver for every Winston Cup mile he drives annually.

"On my run today, I knew just how deep I could drive the International truck into the two tight corners we had on the course, and what it would probably feel like when the trailer leaned way into the corner. It probably looked a lot more exciting than it felt to me. I had a really smooth lap, and no real problems anywhere. It's hard coming in as the leader, and knowing that several guys have a chance to knock you off. It's all a big dream for me, to win this championship."

Lewis' title is the third series championship in two weeks for the Jasper Motorsports family, which also has celebrated titles for Boris Said, the 2002 Trans-Am Series champion and part-time driver of the #67 Jasper Ford, and for Jeff Fultz, the 2002 NASCAR All-Pro Series champion and a full-time fabricator in the #77 Jasper Motorsports shops in Mooresville, N.C.

Lewis entered the AMS finale with a slim 10-point lead over several title contenders, including Rodney Pickler (#2), Kelly Stewart (#28), Tim Beaver (#45) and Tracy Lumpkin (#9). Lewis not only clinched the season championship but also won the Atlanta event, with a score of 175 points (of a maximum 200) and a two-lap-time of 116.909 secs., third quickest of the day's 22 drivers.

By matching his Round-Three event win at Chicagoland Speedway with an impressive win at Atlanta, Lewis stretched his final seasonal margins to 30 points over runner-up Beaver, 45 points over third-place Lumpkin and 50 points over fourth-place Stewart, who had the quickest elapsed time at AMS (105.848 secs.). Pickler, the runner-up entering the final round, fell to sixth overall in the 2002 standings after hitting a barrier during his run.

"This competition is a pretty big deal for all of us truck drivers," said Lewis, who began his Winston Cup career with Active Motorsports in early 1996 before moving to his current position with the Jasper team late that season. "I had a 10-point lead going into today, but they did this course a little bit differently in that they factored in speed.

"The only way you could get a perfect score was to do everything right within 110 seconds, but even the people who laid out the course couldn't get the truck around in less than 120 seconds and hit all the right points. I made it through and only messed up in one area, but I did it in 116 seconds and that was good enough to win. It was real fast. In fact, they said I had the rear axle and the trailer off the ground when I threw it into one turn, but it was fun. The best thing about this is that it gives you bragging rights for a year and I've got 'em.

"I started driving tractor-trailers when I was 14-15 years old. Me and my father worked for a construction company in Cambridge, Maryland and had dump trucks and all kinds of stuff. My father was a foreman there and I got to mess around with the trucks all the time. There was this big field along side where we worked and he said, 'If you want to learn how to drive a tractor-trailer, just go out there and practice. When you can learn how to back it up, you can drive a truck.' And I've been driving them ever since. It's just unbelievable that it can all add up to something like this."

In a fitting conclusion for close friends, Lewis followed Barry Sheppard, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Ford transporter, as the Winston Cup Series Champion transporter driver.

"I was glad to see Stump win," said Sheppard, who finished 14th in the 2002 competition. "We are good friends and we run together a lot on the road. Cindy and Stump came up and spent the weekend with us at Martinsville. They are just real nice people. They are easy to get along with. Of course I'd like to see all the guys win. But its just like racing -- ain't but one going to win. And Stump did a good job. He won a couple of events this year and he had the best time and the best score so I was real glad to see him win.

"I want to thank International for giving us the opportunity to be in this competition. It's a thrill to get out there and have a place to show what you can do. It's gotten tougher. At the start of last season's competition, I was pretty fast, but now everybody is fast, so I'm going to have to pick up the pace if I'm going to run with the "Champ" (Lewis) and the rest of them.

"Many people don't recognize the truck drivers and their role in getting the cars to the track safely every week so the show can go on without a hitch. This competition is about speed and precision on the course the layout they have, but it's because of guys like Stump--who get to the track on time safely every week--that we can have a good shows for the fans. It couldn't happen without the equipment, and this group of guys get it done every week, week in and week out."

-je-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Barry Sheppard , Jeff Fultz , Dave Blaney