FF: Lewis/Ray comments on Ford/USAC agreement

The United States Auto Club (USAC) and Ford Racing Technology have reached an agreement to extend Ford Racing's sponsorship of the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series through the 2008 racing season. The USAC Ford Focus Midget Series has grown to...

The United States Auto Club (USAC) and Ford Racing Technology have reached an agreement to extend Ford Racing's sponsorship of the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series through the 2008 racing season. The USAC Ford Focus Midget Series has grown to include regional championships in Southern and Northern California, the Midwest, the Carolinas and a weekly racing championship at the Indianapolis Speedrome. During the 2004 season, more than 100 cars will contest the five championships in nearly 95 events on both dirt and paved oval racetracks. Steve Lewis, a veteran of midget car racing and a current team owner in the USAC National Midget Series, along with last season's USAC Ford Focus Midget Series Midwest Regional Champion, Robbie Ray, weighed in on the contract extension and what this series has brought to grass-roots racing in the United States.

STEVE LEWIS - Owner, Lewis Racing

WHAT DOES FORD'S CONTRACT EXTENSION MEAN TO THE SPORT OF MIDGET RACING? "I think Ford's relationship with USAC is very good, and obviously they are administrating the series in a first class manner. I think the future is very bright and its good news to hear that Ford is continuing their commitment to back the series and help develop it."

WHAT HAS THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FORD FOCUS MIDGET SERIES BROUGHT TO USAC? "In terms of auto racing, what Ford has done with the development of this Ford Focus series has been a very enlightening and interesting situation. The Ford Focus Midget Series allows a person to get in to open wheel racing at a very reasonable cost. In addition, the competition level, now with the number of racers that are in these various divisions, is very good so the drivers are competing at a high level in a series with reasonable cost. It also gives young drivers a platform to prepare themselves to go to the next level and it's a great bridge between go-karting, three-quarter midgets and quarter midgets. It really bridges that gap, and there was a gap there, between those development series and a really good entry level series. I think Ford Motor Company was way ahead of the game in developing this series."

ROBBIE RAY - 2003 Midwest Region Champion, USAC Ford Focus Midget Series

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE FORD FOCUS MIDGET SERIES? "We found out about the Focus Midget Series and how it had been so successful in California and we always wanted to get into full midgets, but we didn't have the resources to do so. My dad works a full time job and I'm going to school at the University of Iowa and working while I'm in school, so its been hard for us to afford a full national midget program. Once you add up the price of engines, the car and the cost of running the car it gets pretty expensive. So we looked real hard at the Focus deal and it was either that, or continue in three-quarter midgets, and we felt that we just couldn't pass up being involving in USAC, and once we found out how strong Ford's involvement was with the series we just jumped in with two feet."

DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS SERIES WILL HELP YOU DEVELOP AS A DRIVER AND REACH YOUR GOALS? "Definitely, with USAC and Ford together you can't ask for much more than that in a partnership. Ford is leader in the motorsports industry and with the leadership of USAC and how they have been able to propel their drivers through the ranks into NASCAR it's just a great combination. You've see that with Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and other guys, so USAC is really becoming the number one training ground for young drivers they are creating the stars of tomorrow. Now, with the Ford Focus deal in there at the bottom level and being involved with USAC we have a national organization that can take a driver and teach them what they need to learn to become a professional. That's where the combination of Ford and USAC together are going to be able to bring a lot of people in at the bottom level and take them from there all the way. Before a lot of guys would do the three-quarters and go-karts, but you didn't learn the level of professionalism that you learn in USAC."

DO YOU FEEL THAT THESE REGIONAL FOCUS SERIES WILL HELP INCREASE THE TALENT POOL IN USAC? "If you get involved in the Focus series then you are going to be behind USAC, so if you have a lot more series at the grass roots level, everybody is going to want to go to the top and that is going to propel the Silver Crown and the Sprint Cars to a higher level. As this thing gets bigger you'll have a larger number of Focus series drivers that the higher ranks can choose from, which will raise the competition level in all of USAC."

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Series USAC
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Robbie Ray