For Immediate Release: Montana Raceway Park (Aug. 16, 2009)
KALISPELL, Mont. — With rain postponing the completion of the ARCA West Mac’s Series Kalispell Toyota Tundra International Challenge until Sunday afternoon, the wait allowed three-time Coors Light Montana 200 champion, Gary Lewis, all the time he needed to prepare a game plan for a run to his first career Mac’s series victory over the hard charging Shelby Thompson and Montana’s Mark Owens.
Running out front for the Bill Clark Memorial 150 through the races first 31 circuits, Lewis and the field were halted by rain Saturday night and returned to continue the race Sunday. As the Sunday portion of the race resumed 20 cars took the green with Roy Wrigley, Aaron Dowler, Troy Schweigert and Tim Elliott out of the event during Saturday nights racing action.
Lewis took the green flag to restart the race and held the point through the event’s first 30 green flag laps of the resumption. Once rubber had built back into the racing surface, the Snohomish, Wash. native was able to put his car in the high or low groove through the early going of the race.
Thompson, who had captured fast time on Saturday night, used a patient approach in following Lewis as the pair built a two-second lead on Owens, Brian Johnson Jr. and Wrango West who waged a great battle for positions third through fifth heading to the second half of the race.
The event’s third yellow flag flew for contact between Scott Dennis and Billie Salmonsen just in front of the leaders. Lewis dove low under the spinning cars in turn No. 3 but could not avoid contact with Dennis exiting turn No. 4. Thompson made an evasive move to the high side of the track and cleared the incident without damage while Lewis sustained left front fender damage the caused the fiberglass to cave onto the Hoosier racing tire.
“We were worried there for a bit about how that was going to impact our car,” Lewis said from victory lane. “Once we got going things seemed to be okay for awhile until we got up to lapped traffic again.”
Thompson stalked Lewis on the restart and stayed glued to the back bumper of the No. 73 to the race’s 90th lap before using traffic to get the lead entering turn No. 3 and bring Owens and Wes Rhodes up to the front of the running order. Lewis dropped backed to fourth and settled in behind Rhodes for the next 20 laps then began to make a charge on the high side of the race track back to the front.
Moving past Rhodes’ Knight Fire Protection Chevrolet, Lewis set his sights on Owens’ bright red Budweiser No. 44 and made quick work of the past Montana Raceway Park champion. With 25 laps to go Lewis caught Thompson and the pair traded the top spot for several laps before Lewis was finally able to clear Thompson’s Valley Bowl Chevrolet for good with seven laps remaining.
Owens made a hard charge to catch Thompson late but the Mead, Wash. native held off the Montana star for the runner up position at the checkered flag.
Lewis had lapped traffic impact his run at the front but kept patient and waited for his car to settle down in chasing down the leaders, he said.
“Man the lapped traffic really played havoc with our SEFNCO Communications Impala there a couple of time’s today but I know we gave the Montana fans a heck of show. Shelby raced us tough all afternoon and I knew Mark was strong so to get this Bill Clark Memorial 150 is really special.”
One issue that persisted in the latter portions of the event was something that his competitors may not have been aware of, Lewis added.
“Our brakes started to fade there with all the work in lapped traffic so when I dropped back to fourth behind (Wes) Rhodes I just rode for awhile to see if they’d come back around after cooling down a bit and they did so I knew it was time to get into the high line and make a charge to the front. I have to thank the fans for staying with it this weekend through the rain to see this race, that was pretty awesome, and the track for working hard to get this show in because we put on a helleva race I’m sure for everybody.”
Thompson, who has run second to Lewis on many occasions, was mystified as to what it will take to get the top spot from the three-time touring champion.
“Gary is just tough right now. We got the lead there for a bit and sure enough he came right back up there and used that high side to get around us. I tried to hold him off and even moved up into the second groove but he had a good car today and we’ll just have to come back and see if we can get him at the next one.”
Owens was happy with his second straight top-3 finish at his home track and acknowledged that his car was as strong as the leaders but he’d just run out of time.
“We had a good Budweiser car today. (Crew Chief) Scott Brandt and the crew along with the Earl Wham horsepower allowed us to have a shot there against Lewis and Shelby but we just ran out of time. We had a lot of fun running today; we’re going in the right direction to get ourselves a win here real soon,” he said during post race interviews.
The Canadian Baby Grands held their championship races at Montana Raceway Park as the support show to the ARCA West Mac’s Series Bill Clark Memorial and 13-year old Cameron Hayley and cagey veteran, Troy Vandenbilche, thrilled the fans with two 40-lap mains of back to front racing.
Each main found Hayley and Vandenbilche starting at the tail end of the 12-car field by virtue of the top-2 qualifying runs on Saturday night.
In Saturday 40-lap main, Hayley grabbed the lead by lap 10 and cruised to the victory with Vandenbilche and Mike Kipp battling behind the Alberta native for second and third place.
On Sunday roles were reversed as Hayley got to the front by lap 20 but this time Vandenbilche had something for the youngster and took the lead with 15 laps to go. Hayley chased Vandenbilche with Kipp in tow but the pair were unable to move past Vandenbilche’s blue and white No. 80 at the stripe.
Racing resumes at Montana Raceway Park on August 29. For more information log onto www.montanaracewaypark.com
ARCA West Mac’s Series Kalispell Toyota Tundra International Challenge for the Bill Clark Memorial 150 trophy final results:
1) Gary Lewis
2) Shelby Thompson
3) Mark Owens
4) Alex Lessor
5) Dave Garber
6) Wes Rhodes
7) Brian Johnson Jr.
8) Brian Levant
9) Wrango West
10) Ryan Fischer
11) Agni Howell
12) Bill Salmonsen
13) Braeden Havens
14) Cory Wolfe
15) Ron Dexter
16) Jared Vorse
17) Bodie Morton
18) Darrin Rupinski
19) Chris Skelton
20) Tim Elliott
21) Scott Dennis
22) Roy Wrigley
23) Aaron Dowler
24) Troy Schweigert
B-Main Finishing Order
9) Bob Delorme
10) Forrest Bauer
11) Trevor Hansen
12) Dean Craig
13) Ryan Wells
14) John Teppin
Canadian Baby Grands Twin 40-lap Mains Finishing Orders
Race No. 1
1) Cameron Hayley
2) Troy Vandenbilche
3) Mike Kipp
4) Kevin Able
5) Robert Stone
6) Todd Yanda
7) Mychal Tripoli
8) Mike Wright
9) Rob Fulton
10) Sarah Jo Paque
11) Kyle Vriesing
DNS- Dale Edwards
Race No. 2