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LEWIS WINS THIRD STRAIGHT

NORTHWEST TOUR
Source — NASCAR
Date Posted — August 11, 2002
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KALISPELL, Mont. (August 10, 2002) --Over 5,000 Flathead Valley Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring fans packed Kalispell Raceway Park for the Coors Light 125. The fateful (sic) were not disappointed with the racing action as Gary Lewis stormed to his third straight Northwest series victory in as many races.

Pete Harding was second followed by Joe Benedetti in third. Kevin Hamlin and Shane Biles rounded out the top-5. The race was run in 37 minutes 47 seconds for an average speed of 50.044 mph. Both of those marks were new records for a series event held in Kalispell. Lewis' margin of victory was .450 seconds as 10 cars finished on the lead lap.

Lewis led a full 22-car field to the green flag based on a six-car invert. Defending series champion and current points leader, Kevin Hamlin, set a new track record around the .250-mile oval with a lap of 12.750 seconds at 70.588 mph to claim his first Bud Pole Award of the season. Lewis and his Sign Factory USA Pontiac led 110 laps to capture the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most circuits around the high-banked Raceway Park facility.

Harding took the lead off turn No.4 as lap one came to a close. He stayed in front through lap 22 as Lewis pressured for the lead at every corner. Benedetti moved to second place by lap 30 as Harding fell back to fifth by the events 50th lap.

Through the first half of the race, Hamlin stayed in the top-5, moving as high as fourth by lap 70. On lap 73, he and Chris Hart battled for several laps for the third place position before Hamlin would clear Hart's Chevrolet exiting turn No. 4 on lap 76.

Lewis began to lap traffic on lap 78 and moved out to a 10-car length lead by lap 86. Hart would retake third place from Hamlin on lap 100 as the champion's brakes began to fade on his American Dream Motorsports Chevrolet.

Over the final 20 laps, Harding moved from fourth to second place but was unable to make a pass to retake the lead from Lewis. The LP Body Shop team settled for second place as the points gain moved Harding to third place in the championship standings. Lewis's win allowed him to stay just 64 points behind Hamlin with four races left to go in the 2002 season.

With a victory in the Coors Light 125 at Kalispell Raceway Park, Lewis has now won at least one race at every facility on the current schedule.

"I have always wanted to win here at Kalispell," said an elated Lewis from victory circle. "We've had some bad luck here in the past but this Sign Factory USA team worked real hard today and AC Nutter builds use awesome engines and we've gotten some things figured out on this car so here we are in the winner's circle."

With Harding in front, Lewis was unsure how to tame the Canadian veteran but a hard charge early helped propel his to victory Lewis said. "He is defiantly a tough customer. I don't know what happen to Pete there but he was slowing down in the straight-aways and we got the lead back after we let the tires cool on a long green flag run."

Harding fought a loose condition as the race wore on, slowing his car for several laps he said. "You know it was real good there in the beginning but it got loose as the laps went on but after we fell back to fifth and ran along the car seemed to come back."

Tire wear was a factor for Harding's car to stay with the leaders he added. "You know the Goodyear tires were real good tonight. I ran a line that cooled the tires and they came right back, they're great and I have no complaints about this tire."

Benedetti was overjoyed with his best finish of the season. "This has been a long time in the making," he said of the third place effort. "This is not the first good run we have had this season, we've had plenty of those but it is the first good finish we've gotten. I'll take the points and the great paycheck."

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Article posted by RacingWest.com staff on August 11, 2002. http://www.racingwest.com

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