DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — A few years ago, Gary Lewis made a trip to the Middle East to visit with the troops and he called it a trip of a lifetime. He is now looking forward to another trip of a lifetime as he accepted the invitation to compete with the American Speed Association Transcontinental Series at the Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom, Free State, South Africa on Sunday, January 31, 2010.
"I'm so excited about that...it's crazy. I got a phone call from Dick Midgley and talking about the possibility of going is one of the coolest things ever," Lewis said when ask about being invited. "I did a trip with NASCAR quite a while ago to support the troops in the Middle East and that was a trip of a lifetime. And when this came about I felt the exact same way, this is a trip of a lifetime. Who else can say they were invited to a race in South Africa? How cool would that be to be able to do it. Thankfully just hard racing and win the championship has paid off. A lot of us get to go over and show off our skills on a big track and who knows where it will lead. I am extremely excited to go to South Africa and will represent my fellow competitors of the Pacific northwest well."
That championship is the 2009 American Speed Association Northwest Late Model Tour championship that he won by just nine points over Brent Harris. Lewis had a stellar season with four wins, three fast times and seven top-five finishes.
It's his first title under the American Speed Association banner, "Every championship has a special meaning, but just being able to come in the first real year of the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour with the two series merging and having all of the best drivers in the series, it just meant a huge thing to be able to win a championship in another premiere racing league," Lewis said. "We had another good season. We have been going about three to four spectacular years so far. This year we decided to run full-time in the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour and we won a handful of races. Going into the last race with a one point lead and battling it out to win the last race was really cool, and then winning the championship itself. Some of the other cool things is that we went and ran some of the biggest super late model races on the west coast and northwest region, winning some of those again. So there are some of those big giant races that we won again three years in a row or back to back type deals. It's been an awesome year."
He also appreciated the competition he faced this past season, "There are a lot of tough guys at the track, sometimes there are eight or nine or sometimes there are six or seven that were always a threat to win at each race," Lewis recalled. "Mike Lofton, he was a huge threat there most of the year. Brent Harris he took second in points. That guy was on our tail all year long and I feel bad for him that he didn't get a win. He was so close so many times."
Lewis did share one of his secrets to victory and it could be a useful tool for him when he competes on the 1.5-mile Phakisa Freeway Oval in South Africa, "I get a lot more satisfaction racing the second groove when there isn't much of a second groove there. I think we were able to win three out of the four races we won it running in the second groove. That is something that is really special in my heart as an achievement."
With Midgley supplying the car for Lewis, he will be teaming up with John Mickel, the popular oval driver from the United Kingdom who has already accepted his invite to the Phakisa event, "I think we will make a great team and I think we will make a good run at it," Lewis confidentally said.
"We are very happy to invite Gary Lewis to compete with us in South Africa," Dennis Huth, ASA President said. "As many are already seeing we are going to have a great group of drivers from all over the United States and the world competing at this event. Gary will be a great representative of the talent that the Northwest has just like Steve Carlson is in the Midwest. The talent coming to this event will make it an exciting race."
While in South Africa, Lewis and the other competitors will have some time to visit the country. He along with the other American drivers invited will not only get a chance to compete on one of the finest racetracks outside of the United States, but will enjoy many off-track opportunities to see the various sights of South Africa; this includes a private tour of "Savannah" the wildlife preserve that holds the distinction of being just one of three accredited worldwide breeders of the Cheetah.
To learn more about Phakisa Freeway, visit www.phakisa.com.
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