Keeping Pace


 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

Three-time Montana 200 champion, Gary Lewis, returned to Big Sky country and picked up his first career win on the ARCA West Mac's Series.

Courtesy: ARCA West Media Relations

KALISPELL, Mont. (August 16, 2009)-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

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

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

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

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

“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

Racing resumes at Montana Raceway Park on August 29. For more information
log onto

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

1) Wolfe
2) Howell
3) Vorse
4) Schweigert
5) Rupinski
6) Salmonsen
7) Skelton
8) Havens
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

1) Vandenbilche
2) Hayley
3) Kipp
4) Wright
5) Paque
6) Stone
7) Yanda
8) Vriesing
9) Edwards
10)  Fulton
11)  Abel

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.




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