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Steele Has a Nice Night

November 28, 2003|Tony Solorzano | Special to the Times

Michael Lewis and Dave Steele closed out the 2003 United States Auto Club racing season Thursday night at Irwindale Speedway in front of 4,990 fans, as Lewis won the 40-lap Sprint Car feature and Steele won the 100-lap Midget feature at the 63rd running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix.

"We were good all week, and the car stayed good all night," said Steele, who also won the 2001 race. "It's not often that you get a car working as good like that."

On Lap 10 in the Midget race, Steele took the lead from Lewis, who had earned the Western State Sprint Car title earlier in the month at Tucson Raceway Park, and got his Mopar-powered Beast to pull away from the rest of the pack, getting as much as five seconds between him and Lewis.

Midway through the race, NASCAR Busch Series driver and former champion Jason Leffler got spun into the grass along Turn 3, allowing Lewis to get close to Steele.

On the restart, Lewis attempted to close the gap, but had to pick his way through a half-dozen lapped cars, while Steele increased his lead to over four seconds. It took less than four laps for Steele to pull away from any possibility of Lewis catching him.

Steve Paden finished third, with Teddy Beach and J. J. Yeley rounding out the top five.

Jerome Rodela, who had finished the race in fourth place, did not report to the post-race technical inspection and was disqualified.

Earlier in the night, Lewis took a victory away from Michael Pierce in the Sprint Car feature. Pierce led for most of the race, however, on the final five laps, Lewis began to make a charge and took the lead for good.

In the 30-lap Ford Focus Midget series feature, Chino Hill's Todd Hunsacker earned a track record in qualifying but finished in third as he failed in his bid to repeat as Turkey Night champion.

Ryan Pace, of Arroyo Grande, led the final 13 laps after Josh Lakatos lost his front wheel on Lap 19.

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