Gary Lewis recovered from an incident coming to the initial green flag to start the 20th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 and battled his way back through the field to his fourth consecutive Coors Light Montana 200 championship after a spirited battle in the late going with Alex Lessor, Jason Fraser and Jeff Jefferson.
Fraser led the early going of the race and started to move out on the field by lap 50. Lessor went into second place by lap 60 and applied pressure to Fraser as the duo started the races 80th circuit. Entering turn No. 2 Lessor used a strong run to the inside and cleared Fraser as the two entered turn No. 3. Lessor's Ford Fusion then settled into a groove and held the point through the race's 96th lap before fast time qualifier, Mike Longton, took advantage of Lessor and the front runners on a double-file cone restart and grabbed the lead with three laps before the midway break.
California star, Eric Schmidt, had a strong early run as the driver of the Long Engine Systems Chevrolet never strayed too far from the top-5 running order and started the second-half from the fourth position. 1995 Montana 200 champion, Mark Owens, also had a strong run as he was a front runner in the first-half and entered the final 100 laps from the sixth place position. Also having good runs in the first-half were Chris Hart (eighth at the break) and Brian Levant (seventh at the break).
Lewis picked his way to the front and settled into fifth place just before the halfway break. Using several cone restarts the Snohomish, Wash. native carefully darted his way to the front and entered the top-10 by lap 70 and restarted the race from the outside line as the second 100 began.
Once racing resumed Lewis powered by Longton for the lead down the backstretch and held the point at lap 110. Lewis withheld consistent threats from Fraser on the inside during the cone-rule restarts. Lewis would a take a highline approach forcing Fraser to the bottom. Losing the lead to Fraser on lap 161, Lewis battled back one lap later out of turn No. 4 to move back in front and allow Lessor and Longton to close the gap on their competition. Fraser tried in vain to keep with Lewis but Lessor's Ford crept into the picture by lap 170 and attempted to pass Lewis underneath on several occasions before losing the handle on his Fusion at lap 190 entering turn No. 3 on the low groove.
Lessor was able to recover and soldiered onto a ninth place finish at the checkered flag.
With Lessor back in the running order Jefferson jumped into third place and showed that despite spinning on his own twice in the race, was more than capable of challenging for the lead as the laps wore down. Closing to Fraser's rear bumper the two chased Lewis to the stripe but were unable to hook-up on the outside in time to work around the race winner.
No. 73 Gary Lewis Mike Leary's Shock Shop Chevrolet
"That by far was the toughest field of drivers I've ever race against. I went into turn No. 3 and saw (Alex) Lessor getting a run in there and came out of four and looked in my mirror and it's (Jason) Fraser back there by about six car lengths. My spotter told me that he (Lessor) had gone around and that it was Fraser we had to battle to the win. They really made it tough on us to get this fourth Coors Light Montana 200 title that's for sure."
No. 31 Jason Fraser JOES Racing Products Chevrolet
"I had said at the break I'd do everything I could at lap 199 to get myself in a position to win the Coors Light Montana 200 and we sure tried to do that there on Gary when the white came out. (Lessor) went around in front of me and I motored it up to try and get back to Lewis' rear bumper but I just ran out of time to get by him."
No. 42 Jeff Jefferson Bemis Appliances Chevrolet
"This is a good run for us and it was great to get back into a race car and run here in Kalispell. I have to thank Ron Bemis for letting me drive his car tonight. For being my first time in a (Coors Light Montana) 200 since I won it back in '06 and to have this kind of finish just shows how good of a team we put together for the weekend."
- The Westward Bound Construction/Keller-Williams Realty Legends Series opened the night's main event racing action. Scott Moore moved to the lead of the 30-lap race near the midway point and appeared to have the winning car only to lose a motor entering turn No. 3 on the white flag lap with Jake Grossweiler and Jake Bisset hot on his heels. Grossweiler seized the opportunity to take the lead as the checkers flew bringing Bisset with him to finish second. Moore limped down the front stretch just barely beating Tim Corbett to the stripe for the top-3 finish.
- The night got underway with a Last Chance Qualifier that in past years transfer its top-6 finishers into the Coors Light Montana 200 starting line-up. To celebrate 20 years of history the track's ownership, the Thornton Family, offered an added payout to add two more drivers to the night's final race making the 26-car starting field the largest in the race's history. The drivers were informed of this change just prior to the start of the last chance race with Kevin Richards (7th in the LCQ) and Jared Vorse (8th) benefitting from the opportunity.
- At 15 years of age Spokane's Blake Williams qualified for the 20th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 making him the youngest driver to accomplishment the feat. The driver of the No. 16 McClintock & Turk Ford Fusion used a strong run in the Last Chance Qualifier to nail down a fifth place finish and transfer into the main event. The Appleway Chevrolet Parts Center ICAR Series Rookie of the Year points leader was collected in an opening lap melee and was scored 23rd at the conclusion of the evening.
- Ronnie Hults made an over 2,000 mile trek worth his while as he qualified the first Cadillac into the Coors Light Montana 200 field. Behind the wheel of his Speedy's Auto Sales CTS, Hults made his presence felt early before dropping out after an incident exiting turn No. 2.
- Qualifying for the 20th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 was one of the closest sessions in the history of the event as Mike Longton's CLS Farms Chevrolet posted a 12.90-sec. lap to claim the pole while 15h quick, Wrango West, ran a 13.196-sec. lap and was relegated to the B-Main that was ran on Friday night. Longton's speed showed throughout the night as he ran in the top-5 group through the races final stages before falling back to 11th with a flat right front tire. West was collected in an incident in the opening moments of the event and finished 22nd.
- Fraser came within 40 laps of completing his first Coors Light Montana 200 last summer and vowed to return this year with a car capable of winning the event. With crew chief Jesse Jensen making the right calls throughout the weekend Fraser was at or near the top of the speed charts over the course of three days of action and was one of the only drivers capable of running the high or low groove when he needed.
- Mark Owens and his Village Greens Golf Community/Red Bull Chevrolet was the highest finishing driver from the state of Montana. Other Big Sky drivers to make the final 26-car starting line-up were Lessor, Cory Wolfe (21st), Wrango West (22nd), Bodie Morton (24th) and Ryan Wells (26th).
- Trevor Emond of Leduc, AB, made only his second asphalt start of the 2010 season and was the highest finishing Canadian driver as he powered his brand new Paradise RV Chevrolet to a fourth place finish after qualifying in the fastest 12 cars on Friday night. Other stars from north of the border who took the green flag included Brian Levant (Calgary), Greg Vangool (Saskatoon, SK) and Tim Elliott (Creston, BC). Vangool (7th) and Levant (10th) joined Emond in the top-10 finishing order.
- The state of Washington had the highest amount of drivers finishing in the top-10 (five) led by Lewis, Fraser and Jefferson. Erick Hargraves (Yakima) recovered from three spins on the track to capture fifth with Chris Hart (Terrace Heights) running sixth. Mike Obrist of Portland was the highest finishing driver from his state (12th) as John Nesmith (18th) took home top honors for those entered from the state of Idaho. Eric Schmidt (13th) was the lone California driver. Ronnie Hults represented the state of Colorado well before falling out on lap 82.
- The 20th Annual Coors Light Montana 200 was a sell-out for Montana Raceway Park and one of the most successful in history. With 45 drivers pre-registered and 43 attempting to qualify the field was the second largest ever. This was the first time that the states of Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana along with three Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan) had drivers attempting to qualify for a 200. Five drivers with seven combined 200 championships (Lewis, Jefferson, Owens, Wolfe and Elliott) took the green flag with two finishing in the top-3 running order (Lewis, Jefferson).
Coors Light Montana 200 Unofficial Results
1) Gary Lewis, Mike Leary's Shock Shop/The Sign Factory USA Chevrolet, Snohomish, WA
2) Jason Fraser, JOES Racing Products/Bel-Red Auto Rebuild Chevrolet, Snohomish, WA
3) Jeff Jefferson, Bemis Appliances/Brand Source Chevrolet, Naches, WA
4) Trevor Emond, Paradise RV/Clark Construction Chevrolet, Leduc, AB
5) Erick Hargraves, Rick's Garage/CWI Security Chevrolet, Yakima, WA
6) Chris Hart, International Parking Management/TQT Ford, Terrace Heights, WA
7) Greg Vangool, CDM Systems/77 Signs Chevrolet, Saskatoon, SK
8) Mark Owens, Village Greens Golf Community/Red Bull Chevrolet, Kalispell, MT
9) Alex Lessor, Bob's Alley Speed/Rainbow Bar & Casino Ford, Kalispell, MT
10) Brian Levant, Baja Bar & Grill/Brian's Porta Fencing Toyota, Calgary, AB
11) Mike Longton, CLS Farms/GTB Ag Services Chevrolet, Moxee, WA
12) Mike Obrist, Darrel's Economy/Competition Race Cars Muffler Ford, Portland, OR
13) Eric Schmidt, Long Engine Systems/JM Environmental Chevrolet, Roseville, CA
14) David Garber, Pend Oreille Mechanical/FabTech Pontiac, Spokane, WA
15) Jared Vorse, Knight Fire Protection/Larry's Shock Shop Chevrolet, Olympia, WA
16) Jay Sauls, Canyon Auto Paint/Parkland Putters Chevrolet, Puyallup, WA
17) Ronnie Hults, Speedy's Auto Sales/Corbett's Auction House Cadillac, Centennial, CO
18) John Nesmith, Meridian Automotive/Nesmith Towing Chevrolet, Meridian, ID
19) Kevin Richards, McClintock & Turk/Rent-Rite Chevrolet, Newman Lake, WA
20) Tim Elliott, Lordco Auto Parts/24 Hour Towing Chevrolet, Creston, BC
21) Cory Wolfe, Don Aadsen/Rody Construction Ford, Ronan, MT
22) Wrango West, Westward Bound Construction/ProBuild Chevrolet, Kalispell, MT
23) Blake Williams, McClintock & Turk/Rent-Rite Ford, Spokane, WA
24) Bodie Morton, Carlson Law Office/Tanner J Smith Construction Chevrolet, Kalispell, MT
25) Shane Mitchell, Mitchell Trucking & Paving/Bird Racing Engines Chevrolet, East Wenatchee, WA
26) Ryan Wells, Big Sky Heating & AC/Pacer Signs Chevrolet, Hingham, MT