Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet suffers many problems at Bristol. BRISTOL, TN - (August 23, 2002) The Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet team was plagued with problems from the time they unloaded their car Thursday morning, until they rolled it back onto the...
Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet suffers many problems at Bristol.
BRISTOL, TN - (August 23, 2002) The Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet team was plagued with problems from the time they unloaded their car Thursday morning, until they rolled it back onto the hauler Friday evening. In the two days they spent at Bristol Motor Speedway, the CAP team just couldn't catch a break.
During the practice session on Thursday, the CAP Chevrolet was only 37th fastest in practice. It was only 30 minutes into the two hour practice session when the No. 44, driven by Mike Harmon, was in the horrifying and much publicized accident. During the time it took to clean up the track, the CAP crew made many changes to their Chevrolet. When practice resumed, the car was still not handling the way the team knew it was capable of.
Driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. was the 18th driver on the track for qualifying. Lewis turned a lap of 15.917 (120.550 mph), which ended up placing him 31st in the final qualifying order. Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertson's Ford, won the pole with a time of 15.421 (124.428 mph). While disappointed with their 31st place starting spot, the team was glad they were not one of the six cars that did not make the show, or one of the seven cars that had to use provisionals to make the race.
After qualifying, the cars took to the track for `Happy Hour'. The team was able to make some improvements to the car, and were steadily improving their times, when Lewis told his crew he was having problems with the front brakes. While a brake problem is never good, it is especially critical at a track like Bristol to have them working correctly. The CAP Chevrolet was 25th fastest in `Happy Hour', but they did not get the brake problem fixed to their satisfaction before the Busch Series garage closed for the day.
When the crew arrived at the track on Friday, they set to work on the brake problem by replacing the flushing system and master cylinder. Without having any practice before the race, they could only hope that this would fix their problem.
As the green flag fell, you could feel the anxiety in the Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet pit area as the crew waited to hear how the car was handling. By lap 10 Lewis was up to 28th. On lap 13 the first caution of the evening came out as the No. 54 of Kevin Grubb spun in turn three. Lewis told the crew that besides being a little tight through the center, the car felt good. On lap 24 the second caution flag flew when the No. 94 of Larry Gunselman spun in turn four. Lewis had worked his way to 25th position, but he told the crew he was having to pump the brakes a little before they would grab.
On lap 33 there was a multi-car pile-up, which Lewis avoided. He brought the car down pit road on lap 34 where the CAP crew put on four tires, topped off the fuel, and took two out of the left rear wedge bolt. The spectacular pit stop, at a time of 15.94, gained Lewis two positions on the track.
During the restart there was another multi-car pile-up, and while the No. 46 almost made it through the melee, they ended up with severe left rear quarter panel damage. The team was forced to pit before pit road was officially open to work on their car. The left rear section had to be cut off and the area carefully checked and supported. They also had to make sure they would be able to get fuel in the car later. All of this work was done in five separate short pit stops in order to keep Lewis ahead of the pace car and on the lead lap.
When the green flag came out on lap 55, all of the repair work was done and Lewis was still on the lead lap. He was forced to start at the end of the longest line for pitting before pit road was open, which placed him in the 25th position. A few laps later Lewis told his crew there was a problem and he was pitting. In looking under the hood, they found that the alternator belt had come off. Repairing this cost Lewis a couple of laps, and when he got back on the track he discovered he had no front brakes. At this point, Lewis pulled the car behind the wall and the crew attempted to fix the brake problem. As precious laps were lost, the crew realized they were once again going to have a DNF because there simply wasn't enough time to fix the car, and be safe on the track.
"It's just so disappointing to be loading the car up early again. We started this race with such a great pit stop. But, as it usually happens at a track like Bristol, we suffered damage. Even after that we were on the lead lap. It's just so frustrating" Lewis said.
He further stated "I really do like the short track races, they are usually a lot of fun. I wish I could have been there at the end of this one. Now, we head home and get ready for Darlington."
Lewis finished the race in 39th position and fell two places in points to 21st.
The next race is the Darlington 200 at Darlington Raceway on August 31st. The event will be aired live on TNT and MRN starting at 1:00 pm ET.