SNOHOMISH, Washington — Gary Lewis has won the state of Montana’s biggest late model race, the Coors Light Montana 200, three consecutive times, has three straight Idaho Napa Auto Parts 200 titles, but what he lacks is his home state’s grand prize-the Yakima Speedway Fall Classic-and enters this weekend’s event with high hopes to close out 2009 with the prestigious title.
The four-time late model touring champion confirms the desire to win the 22nd annual running of the Central Washington event as high on his list of things to accomplish.
“A victory here at the Fall Classic would be huge for this Shocked by Mike Leary Racing Products team. We have some big wins under our belt but one in my own state would be awesome,” Lewis said.
Lewis has wins on the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour in Washington and in Roseburg, Ore. en route to the 2009 championship, including a title-clinching victory on Sept. 19 in Yakima and will rely on that momentum this weekend, he noted.
“Yes for sure (winning a few weeks ago) does help,” confirmed the driver of the No. 73 AP Brakes Chevrolet. “We took that set-up and tried to make it better heading into this weekend so we’ll see on Friday (during open
practice) how all of that has turned out for us.”
Working to find the right set-up for over 300 laps of late model racing on a tough surface like Yakima demands a near perfect approach, according to Lewis.
For the ARP Racing Bodies Impala to sit in victory lane for the 125-lap Limited Late Model main event Saturday night then again after 200 laps of racing Sunday will require overcoming a continuous challenge the team has faced nearly the entire ASA season.
“The biggest challenge for us this weekend is going to be the tires we’re racing on. They are constantly changing sizes and they are different from one set to another. Yakima is a track that seems to be very tough on this tire. Our right side tires were blistered very badly at the ASA championship race two weeks ago during our practice and first-half run. We know how far it will go with the set-up we used and now have to work to get it to last the entire race.”
Lewis has won a Fall Classic limited event in 2007 but would like to add his name along side the likes of Garrett Evans, Pete Harding, Rick Schultz and other regional greats who have captured the 200-lap Sunday finale.
The drive to win outmatches the desire to make the 200-lap Yakima race a more meaningful victory over a Montana or Idaho 200. Lewis admits to its importance on his resume but notes it does not consume his preparation.
“No (it does not consume me) but yes (it can) meaning that it’s not on the resume and I would like to add it. Even if it was something we’d won in the past we want to win it bad because of its prestige.”
To win Lewis will need to be strong through practice and qualifying heats plus hit his marks correctly in qualifying trim. Starting positions in the 200-lap race are important but the length of the race does allow for a slim margin of error if need be, he said.
“Qualifying is always important but it is a long race so we would have time to work our way to the front if needed.”
The 22nd Annual Yakima Speedway Fall Classic kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 3 and concludes Sunday with the 200-lap finale of late model racing in the Northwest.
For more information on the newly crowned ASA Northwest Late Model Tour’s champion, log onto www.garylewisracing.com or find the team on Facebook under Gary Lewis Racing LLC.