DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 15, 2003) -- Driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. piloted the No. 46 Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to a 25th place finish in today's season opening Koolerz 300 at Daytona International Speedway. When the team first arrived at the ...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 15, 2003) -- Driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. piloted the No. 46 Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet to a 25th place finish in today's season opening Koolerz 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
When the team first arrived at the track on Monday, they knew it would be a long week leading up to the race. The first round of inspections went well, and the team had to make the fewest amount of changes to the car in their history at Daytona.
During the first practice, which was on Tuesday, Ashton did well and ended up 21st on the time sheets. Later in the day he fell back a bit to 33rd. The team made several changes including front shocks and gears. While they had certainly hoped for a solid qualifying run on Wednesday, there was a certain amount of relief that they did not have to use a provisional as they did in 2002.
The crew used the practice sessions on Thursday and Friday to try several different setups, and learn how the car reacted to each of them. Everyone was ready when Saturday finally rolled around, and the CAP Chevrolet crew could work through the first race of the season as a team.
The race lasted two hours and five minutes, and had six caution periods. Lewis started in the 33rd position, and struggled at the beginning of the race with a tight car. The first caution flag came out on lap 32 when there was a four car accident in turn two. The team took that opportunity to pit for the first time. In order to gain track position, the crew only put on two tires, fueled the car and made a track bar adjustment.
When the green flag flew again, Lewis lost some positions and told crew chief Charlie Lewis that he needed more changes made to the car. The opportunity arose when the second caution came out on lap 53 for oil on the track. As Lewis headed down the backstretch he radioed his crew that the car had died. Luckily, he was able to refire it by using the backup ignition switch. The pit crew put on four tires, unhooked the rear bar and made a wedge bolt adjustment. These changes helped the handling of the car, and Lewis was able to move up several positions.
As the fourth caution flag came out on lap 93 and the field slowed, Lewis gave his crew some bad news. The car had stalled, and he could not get it to fire. He needed to be pushed around to pit road. When he arrived, his crew discovered that both coils had gone bad, and they quickly replaced them. Unfortunately, this change did put Lewis a lap down.
As the race neared the final laps, Lewis made the decision to hang behind the lead lap cars and wait for "the big one" to happen in front of him. When it did happen on lap 118, Lewis was far enough behind to avoid all of the cars involved, and he picked up three positions. The race ended under yellow flag conditions.
In recalling the race Lewis said, "We started out with the rear bar hooked up, which made the car nervous in traffic. We could be tight, and then hit a bump just the right way and change. It was still pretty stable, we just couldn't get down the straightaway. Whether it was body or the motor I'm just not sure."
"It was good to finish, and if it wasn't for the coils I think we would have been in the top 20, which would have been great. It didn't cost us too much, we did bring the car home in one piece, and we really learned a lot this weekend. We did the best we could with what we had. I told the guys at the start of the race we were off on the chassis, and it got a lot better when they worked on it and really got it to the point where we could race it, but the coil went out at the wrong time. We'll just get them next week in Rockingham"
The CAP racing team will be heading to North Carolina Speedway for the second event of the season. The Rockingham 200 will be aired live on FX and MRN beginning at 12:30 pm on Saturday, February 22, 2003. Qualifying for the event will take place Friday, February 21 at 1:35 pm ET and will be aired live on Speedchannel.