Mike Lewis smiles at the irony of the moment.
Lewis smiles when he remembers announcing NHRA races a little over three decades ago when Paul Smith was a regular Funny Car driver on the tour.
Friday afternoon they did a different kind of role play.
Lewis, now a Sr. Vice President at Don Schumacher Racing, drove Henry Gutierrez’s Brand-X themed, Paul Smith-tuned Funny Car to the top of the qualifying order during Friday’s qualifying at the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, Ca.
Lewis covered the Auto Club Famosa quarter-mile in 5.820 seconds at 243.15 miles per hour to edge out Jeff Arend's 5.825.
“You know it’s almost funny that when I made the first five second run in Justin Grant’s Funny Car Bruce Larson was announcing,” said Lewis. “Then, we laughed at the role reversals. I would have never imagined driving a Funny Car tuned by Paul Smith.”
Hours after his impressive run, Lewis still found putting the run in perspective a difficult proposition. The run came as a pleasant surprise.
“I’m totally blown away,” said Lewis. “We made a couple of runs under similar conditions and made the same exact run. I would have never guessed an .92 would stay low. We are blown away and happy to be in this position headed into Saturday with one session left.”
Lewis wasn’t blown away because the run was a fluke. Instead he was more impressed the run came on a Friday.
“I knew the Brand-X car was capable of making a good run,” Lewis said. “I’ve just never made a good run on Friday in Bakersfield before. It’s just such a great way to start the event and we can go out there on Saturday knowing we can get after it because we have a .72 to fall back on.”
If the run holds through Saturday afternoon’s final session, it will mark his first No. 1 qualifying effort. He’s come close and dominated provisionally before but in the end came up short.
Lewis once was the quickest in a Top Alcohol Dragster as a driver for Tom Conway.
“For a session,” Lewis proudly proclaimed.
The run wasn’t enough to hold dropping him to a career best No. 3 qualifying.
He hopes tomorrow doesn’t provide a déjà vu moment.
“I believe there will be lots of cars in the .70s tomorrow, I hope we are one of them,” said Lewis.
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