This Week in Ford Racing May 10, 2005 NASCAR Busch Series Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford, was one of the 30-plus drivers to take part in the two-day Busch Series test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway this week to prepare for...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 10, 2005
NASCAR Busch Series
Ashton Lewis, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Ford, was one of the 30-plus drivers to take part in the two-day Busch Series test session at Lowe's Motor Speedway this week to prepare for the inaugural nighttime running of the CarQuest 300. This weekend's Funai 250 at Richmond International Raceway will mark the second of three consecutive night races for the series, and Lewis, a native of Virginia, scored a career-best second-place finish at Richmond in the spring of 2002.
ASHTON LEWIS, JR.-25-Team Marines Ford Taurus
A LOT OF TEAMS TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE TWO-DAY TEST SESSION AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY TO PREPARE FOR THIS MONTH'S INAUGURAL BUSCH SERIES RACE UNDER THE LIGHTS? "The biggest reason we came out here was with the track being ground and hearing all of the differences there, and it's really the first test that both teams have been able to go to from the start of the year. This is actually our first open test, so it's a good test for us and I think we learned a lot yesterday, and I think the big reason why everyone is out here is because of the track being reground."
HOW DIFFERENT IS TRACK SURFACE IN TURNS THREE AND FOUR WHERE THE WORK WAS COMPLETED? "I was surprised. I heard how soft people were running and how fast this place was and I was expecting it to be a Texas-type smooth, but I went in there and I was shocked. It's still awfully bumpy, but the grip in it is unbelievable. It has so much grip in it. You're still bouncing around, but not to the extent that we used to be, and it's just got phenomenal grip right now."
IN THE PAST, TEAMS WERE ABLE TO USE A TWO-TIRE PIT STRATEGY TO GAIN TRACK POSITION. WITH THE REWORKED SURFACE, IS TIRE STRATEGY STILL GOING TO BE A FACTOR? "I'm not sure of that right now. The wear still looked really good on it. I don't think the speed is coming so much from the tires, it's just the adhesion in the track. Our tire guy told us yesterday that he felt comfortable based on what he could see going 77 laps. That's a lot of laps here. You also don't know how it will change once you put down consecutive laps; that's basing it off of in and out, and that's hard to gauge off of. I think anytime this year with the way the tires are, you're still going to have to play a little bit of tire strategy and you're going to want new tires."
LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY IS KNOWN TO BE A TEMPERATURE-SENSITIVE TRACK. WILL A NIGHT RACE HERE MAKE THE TRACK MORE CONSISTENT? "I hope so. We did the impound deal here last year and it really caught us off guard because we were really expecting to have to loosen the car up for the race, but I spun out in the first five laps I was so loose and everybody complained about being loose all night long. I was surprised, and I don't know if it was because of the new surface, but when we went into the night we kind of tightened up, which is what you'd think would happen. I don't know if last year just kind of spooked everybody because it was so cold and it was kind of a unique situation, but I think we've seen the trend of the track from testing these two days. From the time that the sun starting setting to when we left it didn't seem to get a whole lot tighter, but it was tighter than it was in the daytime."
THIS WEEKEND'S RACE IN RICHMOND IS ANOTHER RACE UNDER THE LIGHTS. DO YOU LIKE THE TREND OF HAVING MORE NIGHT RACES? "I like the night racing. I haven't really cared so much for the scheduling of practicing, qualifying and racing all on the same day. That makes for a really long day and you're worn out about the time the race starts. I'd like to see that kind of get changed, but I love the night racing. I think it's great for the series and I think it's great for the fans, and it adds a little bit of excitement to it racing under the lights and it gives us two days off on the weekend."
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS A LOT OF TRACK OPERATORS HAVE MADE IMPROVEMENTS TO THE RACING SURFACES. WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS SPURRED THAT TREND? "I think the guys that have the tracks currently see the expansion and they're probably saying, 'If I want to keep my date I need to get it up to par and make sure it's as nice of a facility as I can offer.' I don't know if the Seattle track is dead, but you still hear about the possibility of a New York track. We're going out to California twice, so I think we're hitting the West Coast a fair amount, but I think the biggest thing is that the promoters that have race dates want to do everything they can to keep those race dates and make the racing as good as they can."
YOU ARE A NATIVE OF CHESAPEAKE, VA., BUT DO YOU CONSIDER RICHMOND TO BE A HOMETOWN TRACK? "I kind of consider a hometown track. I guess it's kind along the same line as Jason (Keller) with Darlington, but I'm only an hour and a half down the road from Richmond. I'm pretty close to that race track and my sister went to school in Richmond, and I played sports and we played teams that were out of Richmond. We definitely did a lot of traveling and have been around Richmond. It's a track that I go to that I want to run well. I get a lot of friends and family there in the stands and in the pits, and I definitely want to be able to run well in front of them."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT RICHMOND THAT ALLOWS GOOD SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING? "I don't know if it's the way that it's shaped, if they just hit it right or it's the pavement. Last year we had a little bit of a problem with it and I don't know if it was the sealer or the pavement, but it was kind of one-grooved there, but hopefully it will widen out a little bit and allow us to really start racing there again. It just always seemed to be a race track where whether they sealed it or not, it worked into at least a groove and a half to two grooves. Guys that were good could run the outside and guys that were struggling a little bit had to run on the bottom, which made for good racing, and hopefully it will do the same."
YOU ARE CURRENTLY FIFTH IN THE DRIVER PRINT STANDINGS HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROGRESS THAT THIS TEAM HAS MADE IN THE FIRST 11 RACES OF THE SEASON? "I think that without a doubt we're in a good position a third of the way into the season, especially considering that we haven't been able to go testing and we haven't had a whole lot of time to develop the car or to get to learn the new tire. We've just had to do it week-in and week-out while we're at the race track and try to learn very fast. To be fifth in points and to run as strong as we have the past month - we haven't really put the finishes together that we feel should have but we're getting there as a team - I'm really pleased with the progress that we've gotten."