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 Paul Lewis

Born: September 28, 1932
Home: Johnson City, TN

Racer Profile: Paul Lewis  May 25, 2007   By Allen Madding

Johnson City, Tennessee’s Paul Lewis, born September 28, 1932, made his debut in the NASCAR Grand National Division in 1960 at the age of 27. He made 22 starts driving Jess Potter’s No. 32 and No.1 Chevrolets. He recorded a sixth place finish at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in North Carolina in April logging a total of four top-10 finishes for the year.

In 1961, Lewis finished seventh in the season opener at Charlotte Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina and in the Hickory 250 at Hickory Speedway in April charting a total of five top-10s for the year. In 1962, Lewis made only six starts in Grand National competition, his best a 12th place finish at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, South Carolina in May. In 1963, Lewis drove his own No.53 Ford in the Southern 500 at Darlington but completed only two laps. He drove Jess Potter’s No. 52 Chevrolet in the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro in 1964 but overheated on the 27th lap.

In 1965, Lewis campaigned his own No.27 and No.1 Fords in 20 NASCAR Grand National Division races and drove Curtis Larimer’s No.56 Ford in four events. At Harris Speedway in Harris, North Carolina in May, he qualified on the pole and finished 19th after dropping out of the event on the 16th lap. He logged three top-5s and 13 top-10s.

In 1966, Lewis competed in 21 NASCAR Grand National Division events driving his own No. 1 Plymouth in 20 events and driving Petty Enterprises’ No. 42 Plymouth in the American 500 at Rockingham. He qualified 11th for the Southeastern 500 at Bristol, Tennessee and finished second. He recorded third place finishes at Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville, Tennessee, Asheville-Weaverville Speedway, in the Buddy Shuman 250 at Hickory Speedway, in the Capital City 300 at Richmond, in the Joe Weatherly 150 at Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina, and in the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro.

Lewis qualified 27th for the Smoky Mountain 200 at Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville, Tennessee in July. He led 64 of the 200 laps on the ½-mile dirt track and won the race. It would prove to be his sole NASCAR Grand National Division career win. For the year, he charted one win, nine top-5s and 14 top-10s for the season.

In 1967, Lewis made 14 starts in Grand National competition driving his own car in the Augusta 300 At Augusta Speedway in Georgia where he finished second to Richard Petty. He drove A.J. King’s No.1 Dodge in 8 events, Emory Gilliam’s 00 Dodge in four, and J.D. Bracken’s No. 2 Chevrolet at Ashville-Weaverville Speedway recording three top-5s and eigth top-10s.

In 1968, Lewis raced with the NASCAR Grand National Division in four events. He finished fifth at Montgomery Speedway in Alabama driving J. D. Bracken’s No.2 Chevrolet and finished 13th in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving Bobby Allison’s No. 2 Dodge.

In 114 career starts in NASCAR Grand National Division competition, Paul Lewis recorded one win, one pole, 16 top-5s, and 45 top-10s.

Paul Lewis Interview by RacersReunion.com


Paul Lewis photo review

Here's a short clip on YouTube with former Grand National driver Paul Lewis who raced in Grand National 1960-1968 and won one race in a  '65 Plymouth formerly owned by the Petty's. Outside of running his own team, Lewis was the first driver for the A. J. King Dodge team and also drove the Petty number 42 Plymouth for one race.

Clip has several interesting car history revelations. After his Grand National days, Lewis who was from Johnson City, TN, ran a lot of Sportsman races at Smoky Mountain Raceway.
Lewis mentions a Bobby Allison Chevelle  he bought & a brief glimpse of a photo is shown. When asked if he knew what happened to that car, Allison thinks L. D. Ottinger won a lot of races with it but he could not remember.
L. D. and Paul both raced in that same time period and at the same tracks especially Smoky Mountain Raceway. Both are from the same region of Tennessee, Newport and Johnson City.


NASCAR veterans soak up anniversary celebration By Jeff Birchfield - Sports Writer

Published July 30, 2011

BRISTOL — Paul Lewis can still remember the excitement at the start of the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 30, 1961.

Behind the wheel of the No. 1 Chevrolet, the Johnson City driver started 18th and finished 11th in the inaugural Volunteer 500. A brutal day for both man and machine, Jack Smith won the race, but with relief driving help from Johnny Allen.

For Lewis, however, his most vivid memories were right before the green flag waved.

“I remember the thrill of starting the race, the first time on this race track,” he said Saturday while participating in Bristol Motor Speedway’s 50th anniversary celebration. “Getting a race track in East Tennessee, I was sitting there with anxiety, appreciation, the whole nine yards.

“I can imagine what it must be like to sit in a race car now with all the people around and the layout of this place. I would be just as anxious to start now as I was back then.”

Lewis and fellow Johnson City racer Brownie King signed autographs and posed for pictures with a 1958 Chevrolet they both raced for local car owner Jess Potter. The car, which was carefully restored by Potter’s son, Gary, featured a sparkling white paint scheme and was adorned with orange No. 32 numerals.

Other parts of Saturday’s BMS Fan Appreciation Day included monster trucks on display, Joey Logano’s Nationwide car, along with a show car trailer which featured large video game screens. Local politicians and business leaders also took part in the celebration, but for many fans, the highlight was hearing stories from the local racing legends.

King, who finished one spot behind Richard Petty in the 1959 NASCAR Convertible point standings, made his first Bristol start in October 1961, driving a Ford Thunderbird to an 18th place finish. It was only the beginning for King, who captured the track’s Sportsman division championship a year later when the track hosted weekly races.

In addition, he was the winner of a prestigious 400-lap race which featured cars from both the Sportsman and Modified ranks.

“I enjoyed running up here every week,” said King, now 77. “This place had some smooth asphalt, which was nice compared to the old rough dirt tracks I had been racing at. I remember Hillsborough, N.C., had a dirt track which got rough and West Memphis, Ark., had a mile-and-a-half dirt track real rough and nasty. They would have to stop the race and put down some calcium chloride to hold down the dust so we could finish the race.

“To come to such a nice track so close to home, that was awesome.”

Lewis, 78, also made a name for himself outside of the Cup Series at Bristol. He won back-to-back pole positions for Late Model Sportsman races at BMS in 1971-72, and held the overall track record at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” for six years.

“This was always a race driver’s race track,” he said. “From the standpoint of being able to run fast, you have to be good setting the chassis up with the torsion bars, sway bars and shocks. If the setup doesn’t work, it only takes a little bit to get way behind.”

Starting out as a youngster on pit road, Potter’s first memories of Bristol were polishing his dad’s race cars along with brothers, Mike and Ronnie. He recalled how some of the top people in the sport at that time like Lee Petty and Cotton Owens commented on how the Potters’ car was always the best-looking machine on the track.

Potter finally got his turn behind the wheel at Bristol in 1979, driving a Chevrolet Nova with the familiar No. 32 on its doors.

“I do remember when it was asphalt, it was a pretty awesome track,” Potter said. “The entertainment of running so close at Bristol, not just the beating and banging, that being so competitive made it fun. You had to always concentrate so hard because you would be up on a wreck in no time.”

All three men have been involved with the local Racers Reunion organization over the past two decades. Much of the mission was to get more recognition for the local pioneers of the sport.

Each of them said it was special being invited to partake in the track’s 50th anniversary celebration.

“I really appreciate what the people at Bristol have done as far as asking the local competitors and fans to come,” Potter said. “It’s neat to meet the people who were at the first races back in ’61. For them, to see the cars that competed in that era and to meet drivers like Paul and Brownie who were in those first races, it’s great for me to see that.”

Lewis is the only driver from the Tri-Cities area ever to win a Cup Series race and the last driver from East Tennessee to do so until Knoxville’s Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 this year.

Although Lewis has been to the speedway many times over the past 50 years, he still has a hard time believing how the facility has grown.

“You look around this thing and it’s hard for me to comprehend how it would turn out like this,” Lewis said. “You have to give credit to all the people who have brought it up to what it is. This track is a credit to racing as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t take a backseat to anywhere. There are few venues which can put on a show like this place does.”

It is a sentiment shared by King, who remembered the banks weren’t as steep when the track was first built.

“I just can’t believe that old race track that they had, they made it look like it does now,” King said. “The banking was only around 15 degrees. To have a place like it is, to hold 160,000 people, it’s every bit as good as the Daytona 500.”

Notes: The Thompson Metals Monster Truck Madness took place at the speedway Saturday night, following the Fan Appreciation Day.

Eight trucks highlighted by Grave Digger, Samson, Spiderman and the Bristol-based War Wizard took part in the event, which was a combination of both racing action and freestyle jumps.

It is the third year which Thompson Metal Services have sponsored the event, and seeing monster trucks crush cars is a great way to get out the message of recycling according to company president Dean Kerkhoff.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Kerkhoff said. “We get the cars when they come out of here. We get them cut up and get them gone where they need to be.”

Johnson City Press

Paul Lewis with Matt Kenseth

Racing legends tell it like it is  by Dan E. Way

As Labor Day approaches, I always find my thoughts drifting back to my childhood introduction to the sort of workers whose back-breaking labor made this country a colossus.

My father spent more than a quarter-century as secretary of his labor local, and my grandfather spent years as the hard-charging business agent for the same union local. Even as a recovering liberal, I still recall with a sense of nostalgia the nights when burly men with Popeye forearms and Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons union cards would stop by our house. They would foment in blue tones about the latest management indignity or discuss contract offers and strike strategies.

Dave Marcus and Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis of Johnson City, Tenn., wonders today whether he and his surviving colleagues from NASCAR's early days would be better off now if they had entertained Teamsters' overtures for union representation all those years ago.

"These guys are the forgotten heroes," said Lewis. "The people who sacrificed their money and time were the backbone of it."

He is one of the founders of the Annual Historic Occoneechee-Orange Speedway "Celebration of the Automobile" Car Show & Racers Reunion, which had its third reunion and drew more than four dozen aging independent drivers of yore to Hillsborough last weekend.

Lewis, who had 114 career starts in NASCAR's Grand National Division, one win, one pole, 16 Top 5 and 45 Top 10 finishes, was one of those independent drivers who were the majority of the starting field at NASCAR races back in the 1950s and 1960s. They competed against a handful of drivers who had sponsorship contracts with the auto factories.


"Without those independents, NASCAR wouldn't have become what it is today" because there wouldn't have been enough cars for a race, he said. He minces no words about his disgust with how the old-time drivers have been treated. The independents almost never got guaranteed pay, had no health or life insurance benefits, Lewis said.

"They said we were private contractors," he said. "You couldn't race off what you won. You had to have a job. They don't care about us," Lewis said. "My home track (Bristol) doesn't even recognize me," even though he ran the first race ever held there, "that's the kind of slight we get," he said.

And that's why he wanted to start the reunion of drivers. "I want people to know what racing was like back then."

Gene Hobby with his #99 Plymouth

Fellow driver Gene Hobby of Apex shares Lewis's contempt for NASCAR -- "Hell, they ain't nothin' but corporate hogs today" -- and has no shortage of stories about what racing was like for the independents.

Promoters back then were no favorites, either. "You'd be lucky if you got half of what they promised," Hobby said. And even luckier if a hotel room came with the rare deal to appear in a race.

That room was important because it served as an all-night garage. Hobby and Lewis laughed while recalling how they would take the mattress off the bed, throw down a piece of plywood, place the engine there and work on it for the next day's race. Then the engine would be put in the bathtub and cleaned with soap and water, lugged back to the car and installed.

There was no such thing as power steering or air-conditioned suits. "These boys today break the power steering and they cry because they can't steer the car," Hobby said. And his air-conditioning came from a hand towel dipped in a bucket of water and draped over his neck at every pit stop. "In five laps it would be dry."

Drivers didn't have the flame-retardant suits of today, either. They dipped their clothes into a vat of fire-retardant material, put them on a fence to dry and drove in them the next day. "They itched like crazy when they dried out," Hobby said.

"This is wuss racing now," former racer Billy Biscoe mused.

Listening to the old legends, one has to wonder what sort of sport would allow its pioneers to struggle in their twilight years, why NASCAR has shunned them, why the modern multimillionaire racers don't set up a fund like those in professional baseball and football to help the rapidly thinning ranks of old-timers in need.

The young Turks may take their records, but they'll never match the pioneers' pluck or place in history.

Dan E. Way is editor of The Chapel Hill Herald. E-mail dway@heraldsun.com.
Read more:
The Herald-Sun - Racing legends tell it like it is

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NASCAR Grand National Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1960 27 22 of 44 0 0 4 0 3690 0 3,535 27 21.9 18.5
1961 28 21 of 52 0 0 5 0 3669 0 4,095 28 23.5 20.1
1962 29 6 of 53 0 0 0 0 945 0 1,695 55 29.3 28.5
1963 30 1 of 55 0 0 0 0 2 0 500 138 37.0 37.0
1964 31 1 of 62 0 0 0 0 27 0 150 142 23.0 26.0
1965 32 24 of 55 0 3 13 1 5954 0 13,246 14 16.9 11.7
1966 33 21 of 49 1 9 14 0 6260 67 17,826 16 13.4 11.0
1967 34 14 of 49 0 3 8 0 2959 4 8,720 33 13.2 15.7
1968 35 4 of 49 0 1 1 0 584 0 3,100 71 21.5 22.2
9 years 114 1 16 45 1 24090 71 52,867   19.0 16.5





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