Steve Lewis, Team Owner For Nine Racing, Announces Retirement From Usac National Midget Championship Series
LAGUNA BEACH, CA -- After 29 years and 10 national championships, Steve Lewis is retiring from the USAC National Midget Championship Series.
"There are several factors contributing to my decision," said Lewis. "I would like to devote my time and energy to help our son achieve his dream of becoming a professional race car driver. Also, as PERFORMANCE RACING INDUSTRY Trade Show and Magazine have grown over the years, my daily responsibilities are as demanding as ever. So, it just seemed like I had arrived at a point where I needed to close this wonderful chapter in my life.
"It has been a spectacular 29-year run for our team. It all began in the fall of 1979 when Stan Fox drove my first midget in a USAC National event at Ascot Park. The last race for the Nine Racing, Inc midget team will be the 68th running of the Thanksgiving Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale on November 27, 2008," explained Lewis. "I'm glad I've lived so much of my life in racing. You'll never meet a more extraordinary bunch of people than racers."
"Entering USAC midget racing for the first time in 2006 as a partner with Steve Lewis' Nine Racing organization was a great opportunity for Toyota," said Gary Reed, vice president of Special Racing Projects for TRD, USA. "Steve and Nine Racing gave our new midget engine program immediate respectability right out of the box, and he and all the Nine Racing associates totally dedicated themselves to making sure that our Toyota midget engine debut was a success. We are extremely proud of the history we have made with Steve and the successes jointly shared by Nine Racing, Ed Pink Racing Engines and Toyota/TRD. Steve is a class act and one of the true gentlemen in our sport. We wish him the best of luck in the future and look forward to seeing Loretta and him at the track for many years to come."
In addition to the 10 USAC National Midget Series championships; the Nine Racing team has logged over 130 feature wins in the famed #9, #19, and #91 midgets. Stan Fox, Tony Stewart, Kenny Irwin, Jr, Kasey Kahne, Jason Leffler, JJ Yeley, Mike Bliss, Stevie Reeves, Dave Darland--these are just some of the drivers who have earned wins in the famous #9 race cars of Nine Racing.
Lewis has been a lifetime midget fan from the age of 8 years old. He entered the business of auto racing when his friend Don Edmunds suggested the idea of owning and operating a midget race car. Edmunds built a four-bar AUTORESEARACH midget that was powered by an Autocraft VW engine, and this car made it's debut at Ascot Park in the fall of 1979 with driver Stan Fox at the wheel. That night Stan finished fourth in the semi main, and that is how it all started.
Drivers earning championships for Nine Racing Inc have been: 1993 Stevie Reeves, 1995 Tony Stewart, 1996 Kenny Irwin Jr., 1998 Jason Leffler, 1999 Jason Leffler, 2000 Kasey Kahne, 2001 Dave Darland, 2002 Dave Darland, 2003 J.J. Yeley, 2004 Bobby East.
A variety of engines have powered Lewis-owned midgets through the years. In the beginning, it was VW AutoCraft engines, then there was a brief stint with Pontiac power. In 1992, the switch was made to Gaerte Engines and the 1993 and 1995 Champions were powered by Earl Gaerte's creations. The Nine Racing team started using Ed Pink Fords in early 1996, and all the wins and championships through 2005 were with Ed Pink Ford power. In 2006, the Ed Pink Toyota midget engine made it's debut at the 2006 Copper Classic in grand form with driver Dave Steele winning the race. From the late 1980s to 2004, Bob East managed the Nine Racing, Inc racing program. Under his watchful eye, numerous race wins occurred and midget driving champions were developed. Many of the Nine Racing, Inc drivers from this period went on to excel in upper level series.
Crew chief Kelly Drake will remain on board and will operate and manage the Brownsburg, Indiana Nine Racing, Inc shop facility. "Over the past three years, we have built and outfitted our shop to reflect the state of the art for grassroots racing endeavors, and we'll develop a plan to fully utilize this asset," stated Steve Lewis. The newly developed Nine Racing website will be kept current as well, and the "history portal" will be updated to include photographs and bios of all the drivers that drove the number 9 cars. "We have filing cabinets full of wonderful photographs and I feel it would be a fun project to get these photos out of the cabinets and onto the website for everyone see and enjoy," exclaimed Lewis.
He also expressed his profound appreciation for the Nine Racing sponsors. "ASE and Oakley have been terrific. Other sponsors who played an important role in Nine Racing include such great racing brands as Eibach, Weld Wheel, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, Earl's Performance Plumbing, Performance Friction and VHT," said Lewis. "We have a great team of sponsors, and I want to thank them for their contributions."
Michael Lewis, son of Loretta and Steve Lewis, is currently in his senior year of high school, and already has a long history in racing, including karting in Europe and America, Focus Midgets and quarter midgets. This year, Michael Lewis won the IKF Region 7 championship in the TaG Light class. Steve and Michael are currently working toward putting together a program in the Formula BMW Americas series for 2009.
Lewis' company, Performance Racing Industry, organizes the largest racing trade show in the world, with its 21st edition to be held in Orlando this December. Approximately 1,400 companies exhibit, taking up 1,000,000 square feet, with 40,000 racing industry professionals attending from more than 50 countries. PRI magazine is the monthly business magazine for the worldwide racing marketplace.
"I started watching midget racing from the grandstands in the early 1950's at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California, and was captivated as a young boy with the excitement of watching midgets race on a tight, dusty dirt track. I have had the wonderful opportunity to be able to participate in a sport that I truly love. I have had rewarding experiences that I never could have dreamed of, made friends along the way that are truly special to me because of my involvement in this great sport. Now, it is time for me to head back to the grandstands, grab a hot dog and maybe even a beer and continue to watch the best drivers in the world race midgets on dusty dirt tracks as well as the high speed pavement tracks."