SNOHOMISH, Washington — Gary Lewis has earned wins in the many of the country’s premier late model events over his illustrious career but when it comes to Yakima Speedway’s Apple Cup, which kicks off a season of racing or the Fall Classic that concludes a year-the four-time regional champion has been come up empty handed at nearly every turn.
Lewis does have a Limited Late Model victory in a Fall Classic but to be added to the list of 22 years worth of history means winning the 200-lap finale held on Sundays. The driver of the SEFNCO Communications Chevrolet has been leading the finale only to suffer mechanical woes, get caught in an incident out of his control or even have a flat tire cut short his afternoon.
With the 23rd Annual Fall Classic set for this weekend Lewis aims to change his luck at the last late model event of 2010 for the Northwest.
“You have to keep digging in this sport,” Lewis said. “Yes the Fall Classic has been a little rough the last couple of years for us but we have had many wins at Yakima Speedway in the past. We have also let this race slip out of our hands a couple of times as well.’
Competition and the challenge to win the biggest race of the fall is another motivating factor for Lewis, he added.
“The main reason we compete in the Fall Classic is the list of top notch drivers that will also be out there trying to win this race.”
That list includes past champions Mike Longton, Chris Hart, Joey Tanner along with the likes of defending Speedway late model champion Owen Riddle. Also expected to compete this weekend will be Jason Jefferson,
Preparation in the shop by the Sign Factory USA pit crew is key to having a race car capable of being in the right place at the right time to defeat the stellar list of drivers entered in the Fall Classic, according to Lewis.
“Many hours at the shop have been put in to prepare the car and having a great team has been key to all of that work. We’re constantly trying to keep up with the latest technology and also trying new ideas.’
While Yakima offers an open practice on Friday afternoon, drivers such as Lewis that are unable to take part in the session will only have 45 minutes on Saturday to dial their car in for qualifying and positioning heat races. That limited amount of track time is going to be crucial to the success of the AR Bodies Impala and how it handles, Lewis added.
“We’re not very happy with the lack of practice on Saturday and the last minute release of the schedule but we will make the best of it.”
This weekend’s race will be the first time the team has competed on an oval larger then a quarter-mile with their late model. With the success the team has had in 2010 each time the car has been out including victories in the NOS Energy Drink Road Course Challenge, Montana 200, Best of the West 125 and a runner-up finish in the Idaho 200, not much will change in their approach, Lewis said.
“We’ll make just small changes, nothing big at all however we’re trying some new stuff that will hopefully help the car through the middle of the turn this weekend.”
The 23rd Annual Fall Classic will be Lewis’ final late model start of the season. Once the event is over the team will turn its attention back to the Midgley Motorsports Chevrolet that Lewis has drove on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
“Phoenix will be next for us and then we’ll be done with the year. We’re really trying to put something together to run some big track stuff in
2011 but it’s still to early to tell how that will work out. We know we’ll always try and run the big late model shows (next year) for sure.”
Qualifying and positioning races for the 23rd Annual Yakima Speedway Fall Classic get underway at 1 p.m. this Saturday. The 200-lap finale is set for Sunday afternoon. For more information log onto www.yakimaspeedway.us