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Camilla's Lewis 11th in pro racing debut

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Staff reports

sports@albanyherald.com

South Boston, Va. -- Rain nor fire deterred Camilla's Joseph Lewis from his first USAR Pro Cup start as Lewis claimed an 11th-place finish in his pro debut. Lewis, despite finishing several laps down due to a mechanical issue, completed the day without a scratch on the car.

"It's a lot harder than it looks. I was expecting it to be physically challenging," Lewis said. "And it is hot in that car. Much hotter than a Georgia corn field in July."

Practice began shortly after noon during the heat of the day. Lewis and his crew concentrated on getting the driver comfortable on the slightly banked track. For Lewis, it was his first race working with a spotter speaking in his ear. He quickly learned the importance of communicating with crew chief Richard "Zeke" Ezekiel and team on the radio.

Qualifying appeared to be a washout after a late afternoon downpour. Track officials began the process of drying the track and Lewis made his first attempt at qualifying on a green track. He qualified 17th out of 22 cars and the team began preparing for the start of the race. Originally set to start later in the evening, track officials elected to move the drop of the green flag earlier in the evening due to weather.

Lewis maintained a good line throughout the race, driving in traffic and responding to spotter, Mark Gibson. With less than 100 laps on the board, Lewis radioed his crew that the car was on fire. White smoke billowed from the car as Lewis came to a stop on the backstretch pit road. Team member Grant Gilbert discovered a shorted out wire. Repairs were made to the car and Lewis returned to the track.

Even though many laps down due to the wiring short on a fan, Lewis posted consistent lap times and was able to hold his line while running with the leaders.

"I want to thank all of the pit crew that helped us this weekend," Lewis said. It was a really hot day and everyone really worked hard. I appreciate them getting me back on the track to finish the race and Zeke for giving me such a good car to drive."

Backroads Motorsports team owner Scott Thorpe, Lewi's local Camilla racing team, added: "We have had a great weekend. Joseph displayed great car control all day during practice, qualifying and the race. He never spun out, not even once. He really earned a lot of respect from the other drivers and USAR officials."

Thorpe, meanwhile, is ready for Round 2.

"We are ready to go again," Thorpe said. "We want to keep building on the success of this weekend and keep Joseph in one of these cars."