Lewis has his best finish of the season at Nashville Superspeedway. LEBANON, TN (April 12, 2003) -- Before the Pepsi 300 took place on the 1.33 mile Nashville Superspeedway, driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. was quoted as saying "This place owes me one,"...
Lewis has his best finish of the season at Nashville Superspeedway.
LEBANON, TN (April 12, 2003) -- Before the Pepsi 300 took place on the 1.33 mile Nashville Superspeedway, driver Ashton Lewis, Jr. was quoted as saying "This place owes me one," and today the track nearly paid its dues.
The Civil Air Patrol racing team arrived at the speedway on Friday morning still feeling a bit down after their bad luck at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend. It was beginning to seem that they would never be able to break the bad luck streak.
During the first practice session of the day, Ashton was 15th on the time sheet with a time of 29.712. Driver David Green had the fastest time at 29.397. The team was able to make some good runs in both race trim and qualifying trim. The crew got the first hint that maybe their luck had changed when Mr. Lewis, the team owner, pulled the 29th qualifying position. The last several races the team had pulled low numbers and had to qualify early, which can be a disadvantage.
Lewis had a decent qualifying run of 29.747, which placed him in the 17th starting position. The No. 7 of Randy Lajoie set a track record with a top qualifying speed of 29.382. Friday evening the cars took to the track for 'Happy Hour' and Lewis ended up tenth on the time sheet with a speed of 29.994. The No. 87 of David Reutimann posted the top speed of 29.823. After 'Happy Hour', Lewis was pleased with his car and told the team that he knew it would be a strong car in the race.
Saturday was one of the most beautiful days the Busch series has seen this year. The weather was sunny and in the 70's, it was the perfect weather for racing. The 43 car field took the green flag at 4:00 pm ET with Lewis in the 15th position because two cars had gone to the end of the field. The first caution came out fairly early, on lap 24, when the No. 27 of Chase Montgomery put oil down on the track and the No. 07 (Steve Grissom), No. 28 (Brad Baker) and No. 49 (Chris Bingham) all wrecked as a result of the oil. Most of the teams took this opportunity to pit and make changes to their cars. The CAP team put on four tires, filled it with fuel, made track bar and wedge adjustments. When the race restarted Lewis was in 12th position.
By lap 42 Lewis had worked his way through the field to the sixth position. The second caution came out on lap 67 when the No. 12 of Kerry Earnhardt, No. 23 of Scott Wimmer and No. 61 of Justin Ashburn were all involved in a turn four accident. Once again, most of the teams took advantage of the caution to bring their machines down pit road. The No. 46 crew made the exact same changes as they did on the first pit stop. They did have a problem with one of the gas cans and Lewis came out of the pits in 15th, nine spots behind where he entered.
Shortly after the field took the green flag, Lewis said "Charlie, you made some good changes." He was able to work his way back through the field, and spent the majority of the race in the top ten. On lap 133 the sixth caution flag came out when the No. 38 of Kasey Kahne hit the wall in turn two. The No. 46 took on their last set of tires and topped off the fuel. At this point the crew figured they would be about ten laps short on fuel. As the laps wound down, Lewis was in the top six and looking strong. Two of the leaders came in the pits to get fuel, putting the No. 46 in fourth place. Shortly after, a caution came out and the Civil Air Patrol racing team finally received their first big break of the 2003 season. Lewis piloted his car to pit road, they put in enough fuel to go the distance, and he made it out of the pits in second place. He was the first car out of the pits, behind the No. 21 of Johnny Sauter who was on a different pit sequence from the rest of the field and did not need to pit.
When there were 10 laps to go, Lewis and Sauter put on quite a show with Lewis trying to take over the lead. The No. 37 of David Green and the No. 20 of Mike Bliss were in third and fourth putting on an equally exciting battle. With two laps to go, the No. 37 was able to pass Lewis and on the white flag lap he passed Sauter. Lewis sailed across the finish line in third place, his best finish of the season and his second best career finish (Lewis finished second in the May 2002 Richmond race). His third place finish moved him to 15th in points.
"I am so pleased for this whole team that we had such a great finish. I really thought for a while there that I was going to get my first win, but considering the year we have had so far, I am very happy with third place.
We are going to carry this momentum forward to California Speedway in two weeks, and keep working towards our first win."
The next race on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule is the Auto Club 300 at California Speedway. The race will be aired live on Fox and broadcast live on MRN beginning at 3:30 ET on Saturday, April 26, 2003. Qualifying for the event will take place Friday, April 25 at 4:30 pm ET and will be aired on Speedchannel.