CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 16, 1999) Suppose that a member of a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race team earned a four-year degree in mechanical engineering, and for his senior project he built a car that won six races and five pole ...
CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 16, 1999) Suppose that a member of a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race team earned a four-year degree in mechanical engineering, and for his senior project he built a car that won six races and five pole positions in one season in the NASCAR Winston Racing Series. Most people would guess that this individual works as a chassis specialist or an engineer for the race team. But this story is about NASCAR Busch Series driver Ashton Lewis Jr., and he is the one who built a Late Model Stock Car for his senior project at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and took it to Victory Lane multiple times in 1997.
Lewis will debut a new Lewis Motorsports Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway in Florida in February 2000 at the NAPA Auto Parts 200 and he is putting every bit of his mechanical engineering degree to work for him in the shop. In its inaugural effort, Lewis Motorsports will enter at least 15 NASCAR Busch Series events next season.
A native of Chesapeake, Va., Lewis first combined his two passions in 1996 when his professors at Old Dominion approved his senior project. The aspiring engineer was given permission to design and build his own Late Model Stock Car for competition in the NASCAR Winston Racing Series.
With help from his younger brother, Charlie, Lewis began the meticulous process of building the car from the ground up. Lewis' design included the front suspension geometry, steering components, roll cage and interior sheet metal.
After completing the project and graduating with honors, Lewis raced the car in the summer of 1997 at Langley Speedway and Southampton Speedway in Virginia. He collected six wins and five poles in just 33 starts.
The idea for his senior project was not a spur of the moment decision.
"It was something that I had always wanted to do," Lewis said. "I designed the car, and Charlie and I built it together. The experience has helped me a great deal in racing. Building the Late Model car gave me the chance to develop the car's front geometry. The theories that I used on that car will be the same for our Busch cars."
During the building process, the Lewises developed a relationship with Rex Stump of Hendrick Motorsports. Stump served as a technical consultant to Lewis from time to time during the project, but he had yet to see the finished product.
After putting the finishing touches on their exclusive design, the Lewises presented pictures of the car to Stump. Stump was so impressed by the design and construction of the car, that he offered Charlie Lewis a job on the spot in the Hendrick Motorsports chassis research and development department.
Ashton Lewis accepted an opportunity to work as an engineer on Jeff Gordon's NASCAR Winston Cup Series team.
Before matriculating at Old Dominion, the elder Lewis spent several semesters at Virginia Tech in 1990-91 in the engineering department. In addition, Lewis competed in the Skip Barber Formula Ford Series, where in 1991 he won the Midwest Formula Ford Championship, capturing 14 wins in 16 starts. In that same year, he finished second in the Eastern Formula Ford Championship, winning eight of the 16 events.
Ashton Lewis also has 11 NASCAR Busch Series starts with a third-place finish in the 1998 Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Lewis now finds himself making all of his visions a reality. Every idea that has been circling around in his head is now appearing on the shop floor in the form of innovative aerodynamics and exclusive geometrical designs.
Most teams bid for the most gifted engineers in the business, and the gifted engineer at Lewis Motorsports just happens to drive the car.