Shaune Lewis actually had his racing property up for sale: the car, the motors, the trailer.
Being the boys basketball coach at Kewanee High School while also supporting his son’s AAU schedule and running the family’s auto body business had proved too time consuming to indulge in his hobby. Last summer he only made it to the track nine times.
Well, as it turned out, it was a good thing the car didn’t sell.
After spending two months remodeling his home during the lockdown, Lewis started to look for something else to do.
“We should have been in the gym a couple weeks ago, summer basketball,” said Lewis, who decided: “I’ve got time to do a little bit more of the racing.”
On just two week’s notice, Lewis put the car back together and borrowed a friend’s truck (because of all things, his trailer-towing truck was the one thing that he had sold) and he was back at Davenport Speedway in Iowa for the evening program on the dirt track last Friday.
Lewis entered into the late model heats and qualified for the feature, which he accomplished with the “For Sale” sticker still prominently displayed on the car’s tail fin. He finished 14th overall.
“We got better as the race went on,” said Lewis. “I’ve got to do some work on the car this week. We sat it on a computerized scale. It hasn’t been on the scale since last summer. I sort of went out blindfolded, ran out of time putting it altogether. I’ll spend a couple nights in the garage this week, making adjustments. We’ll definitely do better.”
Years ago, Lewis raced 40 or 50 times a summer. Although he doesn’t race for points, he has finished in the top 10 in the standings twice at Davenport and he has two feature victories in his career. Since becoming a basketball coach in District 229, first at the junior high and then at the high school, his appearances at the track have been cut back to single digits in recent seasons.
“Really hard sport to be successful in, when you only get out that much,” Lewis said. “Adjustments to the car, you know. Behind the wheel, getting experience, getting laps. It’s an evolving sport, mathematically, geometrically, and it takes a lot of money to do it. It’s hard when you don’t do it every weekend.”
Lewis likes the late models: “the budget class of racing, though I don’t think it’s all that budgeted.” Expenses aside, he said it was enjoyable renewing acquaintances at the track, meeting the other racers and the spectators who are regulars.
And, of course, there is the thrill of racing on dirt, taking a corner at well over a 100 mph, and the challenge of changing track conditions, such as when the surface gets rubberized after several laps.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you drive,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable rush: The G-forces in the corners.”
Lewis is 47, and his style of driving has changed with the years.
“It’s a young man’s sport, no doubt about that,” he said. “There’s young guys that are fast that get up on the wheel and drive. They also haven’t been in a couple of crashes like I have. Been upside down twice. Totaled two or three cars. Hit the wall at a hundred miles per hour. It gets your attention when that kind of stuff happens.”
Such as when a gap opens up.
“When I was 25 or 30, I’d stick the car right in there,” Lewis said. “Now, it’s not that I’m scared. I know there’s always another lap. If I can’t get it done that lap, I’ll try and get it done on the next lap.”
Admittedly, Lewis said had to fast-track his prep for last Friday’s race, so anxious was he to get on the track.
“Going to the race track is easy,” he said, the hard part being “getting the car ready to get to go to the race track. You’ll spend a night just working on the tires. Spend a night or two just working on the car. Spend a whole night just getting the motor ready to go. As far as maintenance on the car goes, it keeps you busy, no doubt about that.”
He can maintain a motor, but not build one, relying instead on a mechanic in Wisconsin. As for the rest, “I can fix just about anything we break or crash. That helps with the expenses.”
And if there is any doubt, Lewis is itching to get back to coaching basketball. His players started weight training and conditioning under football coach Brad Swanson’s direction this week. In the meantime, he’s been texting them and communicating with them through Google classroom.
Lewis, standing outside the garage of his auto body shop on Lexington Avenue, hopes the restrictions ease before the end of the summer so he can meet with them in person.
“I’m tired of just waving at them when they drive by,” he said, wistfully. “It’ll be better when I get back with my basketball team. … Enjoy what we do with them.”
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