Gary Lewis used the high side of Montana Raceway Park’s high-banked oval to perfection in the late going to hold off Mark Owens and Cory Wolfe en route to a historic third consecutive Coors Light Montana 200 victory in the 19th year of the event.
Lewis started on the outside of Owens’ Budweiser Chevrolet who held the point through the race’s first 30 laps. Owens strength on restarts along the low side of Lewis forced the SEFNCO Communications Chevrolet to work the high groove; something the 38-year old Snohomish, Wash. native discovered was to the liking of his Chevrolet.
“I knew that my car would stick out there on the high side and as the race wore on, especially in the second half, we forced anyone that tried our low side to have to work to keep it on the bottom,” Lewis said upon exiting the car. “It was clean racing even there at the end and I tell you what Mark Owens and Cory Wolfe are some great drivers to hold off for this third straight Coors Light Montana 200.”
Owens lost the lead to Lewis at lap 35 but regained the advantage on lap 57 as he blew by Joey Tanner and Lewis exiting turn No. 2. Tanner quickly moved by Lewis into the second position and appeared to have the car to beat in the 200 as he matched Owens line for line around the quarter-mile.
Tanner’s excitement in running second was short lived as he spun on lap 90 and dropped outside the top-10 running order. With Tanner falling off Lewis moved back behind Owens then returned to the lead on lap 98 and then held on until the field took the yellow flag that signaled the start of the 10-minute break leading to the second-half.
Wolfe quietly made the most of his 16th starting position and returned to the track for the second-half running fourth on the field. By lap 130 the Ronan, Mont. driver used the torque underneath the hood of his McManus Trucking Ford Fusion to grab third place over Mark Sundberg as the night’s longest green flag run went on until an incident on lap 146 bunched the field back up.
With 50 laps to go Wolfe gave everything he had in trying to get around Lewis who consistently choose the high-side groove under the double-file cone rule restarts. On those restarts, Lewis held his ground as Wolfe kept door-to-door pressure for several laps. At lap 178 Wolfe made the most of his opportunities on the low side as he cleared Lewis for the lead as the race moved into the 1 a.m. MST timeframe.
At ten laps to go Wolfe continued to show the strong hand as first Lewis then Owens made runs to the inside. As Owens looked underneath Lewis took a look to the outside and all three drivers had the capacity crowd on its feet. Owens got by Wolfe with five laps to go then applied pressure to Lewis as the pair encountered the lapped car of Troy Schweigert on the white flag lap. Entering turn No. 4 Lewis worked his way around the outside of Schweigert which forced Owens to check up exiting the corner as Wolfe ducked low.
As the crowd roared the three cars cleared Schweigert and drag raced to the finish with Lewis besting Owens by a mere .40-seconds and Wolfe by .48-seconds.
“I tell you what if we’d have had another half a lap I think we could have had Lewis there at the end,” Owens said. “We had to work real hard there to get a shot at him after starting midpack on a restart but (crew chief) Scott Brandt gave me a great Budweiser Chevrolet and we gave the race fans a heck of a show.”
Wolfe, Owens and Lewis all have Montana 200 titles but running third was a treat for the McManus Ford driver as it was only his third race of the 2009 season.
“We haven’t run a lot of races this year and to come home with this kind of finish after we put a new motor in the car this week was very special,” Wolfe said.
History was made in the 19th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 as all three top-3 finishers were past champions, a female driver made the field for the first time in Amanda MacDonald and the race was broadcast over the radio for the first time in its history.
In the Westward Bound Construction Legends car 40-lap main event Jake Grosswiler, Josh Gross and Tyler Corpron battle for the win with Grosswiler earning the checkered flag in his last run behind the wheel of the car owned by Wrango West.
“I knew going in this would be my last ride in Wrango’s car and what a way to go out,” said an elated Grosswiler upon exiting the car in victory lane. “We had a good car and Gross and Corpron raced me hard for this victory. I just have to thank God for the opportunity to run Wrango’s car here tonight.
19th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 Results
Driver, Primary Sponsor, Hometown, Lap
1) Gary Lewis, SEFNCO Communications Chevrolet, Snohomish, Wash., 200
2) Mark Owens, Budweiser Chevrolet, Kalispell, Mont., 200
3) Cory Wolfe, McManus Trucking Ford, Ronan, Mont., 200
4) Jared Vorse, Knight Fire Protection Chevrolet, Olympia, Wash., 200
5) Bodie Morton, Cattlemen’s Chevrolet, Kalispell, Mont., 200
6) Mike Obrist, Darrel’s Economy Muffler Ford, Portland, Ore., 200
7) John Nesmith, Meridian Automotive & Machine Chevrolet, Meridian, Idaho, 200
8) Howard Ford, Rumiano Cheese Chevrolet, Crescent City, Calif., 200
9) Tim Elliott, Lordco Auto Parts Chevrolet, Creston, B.C., 200
10) Mark Sundberg, IPM Ford, Seattle, Wash., 200
11) Troy Schweigert, Bob’s Alley Speed Chevrolet, Kalispell, Mont., 199
12) Agni Howell, Teens in Crisis Chevrolet, Columbia Falls, Mont., 177
13) Joey Tanner, Tidrick’s Quality Transmissions Ford, Portland, Ore., 174
14) Amanda MacDonald, Younger’s Welding Chevrolet, Ephrata, Wash., 170
15) David Garber, Pend Oreille Mechanical Pontiac, Spokane, Wash., 161
16) Clint Habart, Minute Muffler Pontiac, Cranbrook, B.C., 145
17) Jason Fraser, Bel-Red Auto Rebuild Chevrolet, Snohomish, Wash., 142
18) Erick Hargraves, Rick’s Garage Pontiac, Toppenish, Wash., 40
19) Shelby Thompson, Valley Bowl Chevrolet, Mead, Wash., 24
20) Kevin Richards, McLintock & Turk Chevrolet, Newman Lake, Wash., 21
21) Alex Lessor, Army-Navy Chevrolet, Kalispell, Mont., 21
22) Dan Obrist, Dan Obrist Demolition Chevrolet, Portland, Ore., 12
23) Wrango West, Stock Building Supply Chevrolet, Kalispell, Mont., 3
24) Jay Sauls, Parkland Putters Chevrolet, Puyallup, Wash., 3