Michael Lewis survives scare to finish 7th. At 1:30 PM under bright skies and a warm summer day the cars finally rolled out onto the track. Everything went smoothly for everyone except Paul Fix. His Jaguar wouldn't start and his crew worked ...
Michael Lewis survives scare to finish 7th.
At 1:30 PM under bright skies and a warm summer day the cars finally rolled out onto the track. Everything went smoothly for everyone except Paul Fix. His Jaguar wouldn't start and his crew worked frantically to get it started. They got the car out onto the track while the rest of the field was well on their way on the final pace lap. Fix would put in a splendid drive to finish 9th!
Meanwhile the field started cleanly as the top three qualifiers maintained that order. Boris was all over Butch Leitzinger's Corvette with Michael Lewis a few yards back. Behind Michael was a raging death match featuring Justin Bell, Paul Gentilozzi, Stu Hayner and Tony Ave. Bell worked on Michael for a few laps but then was more than occupied trying to keep Gentilozzi's blue Jaguar behind him.
The early pace was what one might see in a race having 5 laps remaining and not 5 laps into the race. Gentilozzi finally muscled his way past Bell and Hayner soon followed. The nose on Hayner's Corvette was a bit pushed in when he got past, but that is Trans-Am racing.
Michael held off Gentilozzi for a couple of laps but the Rocketsports master was past the #12 AmeriSuites car as the fuel window was opening. Ave was the first to pit, and then two laps later the lead duo of Leitzinger and Said stopped in tandem. The Gloy team got Butch out smoothly, but Boris' team had some difficulty and the stop was longer than expected. When Gentilozzi pitted and relinquished the lead to Michael Lewis, all the leaders except Lewis had pitted for fuel.
The running joke was that maybe Michael shouldn't stop till late in the race and put a scare into everyone. Give them all the thought that he could go the distance one more time. But refueling late in the race isn't the best strategy. Michael stayed out later because the team was worried about the fuel situation and they needed to add more fuel than the other teams.
Finally the 12 car was pitted for refueling and the 9-gallon dump was done in 11 seconds. The only problem encountered was that Tim hit his helmeted head on the ALMS refueling rig while jumping over the wall. No harm other than a slight mark on the hardhat.
"I wanted to stay out a bit longer because I think we were turning faster times than the other guys when the fuel tank got lower," Michael said after the race. "We got better with a lighter fuel load, so I think we should have spent more time with a lighter tanks. We put in about 8 or 9 gallons (fuel is really measured in pounds) which was a lot. That hurt us a bit, but the crew did a great job with the stop."
Things were going along smoothly and Michael had a great battle with Boris Said for third spot. "We got to lead a few laps, and we certainly could run at the leaders pace", Michael said. "I was just sitting there cruising, the radio was working that well and that hurt us a little bit. But everything was fine."
After Boris slipped past and Michael was circulating around in a secure forth place, he radioed in and told the crew that the fuel pump had shut off. The crew was very disappointed and dejected as the AmeriSuites was rolling silently around the track.
"I was coming through 1 and got on the curbing a little and the switch tripped and turned the fuel pump off," Michael would say later. "By the time I figured that out I had coasted most of the way around the track and everyone got by me."
Lewis had fallen to 8th position but was now saving nothing as he was gaining on 7th place Tomy Drissi at over 1.5 seconds per lap. Catching Drissi's black Jaguar turned out to be a lot easier than getting past as lap after lap Michael couldn't find a way past.
"When I got the car restarted I caught up to Tomy (Drissi) instantly," Michael said. "But the tires were so bad by then and he was a lot slower in places where I couldn't do anything to get by and good enough in the one place where I could that I just couldn't get past him. It was a shame."
There was the expected full course caution, presumably to remove Craig Shafer's stalled car from the carousel. That bunched up the field for the last four laps. Unfortunately for most drivers no one really had much left in the way of tires and grip so while the racing was close and exciting no one really picked up any positions after the restart.
Except for Michael Lewis who finally did get past Drissi into 7th and was moving past Tony Ave right as the two cars passed the checkered flag. Ave was having trouble just keeping his car on the track as he had lost his tires and any kind of grip what so ever. Tony wasn't the only one who had trouble keeping his car on track late in the race.
Club racer Ton Cowan had his Mustang solidly in the top ten but spun back into the pack and Stu Hayner took a wild ride down the pit straight, or I should say the grass next to the straight. This was just before the yellow flag and resulted in the radiator opening getting plugged with grass and a damaged splitter. There was great debate in the Revolution Motorsports pits about stopping to fix the problem during the yellow, but Series officials settled the debate by keeping pit lane closed during the caution period.
Michael Lewis and the AutoCon crew were very dejected after the race. The AmeriSuites Jaguar was certainly a car that would have contended for a podium finish but fate and gremlins stood in the way. One thing about racers though. Win or lose the conversation soon moves on to the next race. In this case that would be at Cleveland on July 13th.