Amid the roaring of engines, out in front of an elongated trailer in the dusty pits outside Brownstown Speedway, 18-year-old Skyller Lewis works on his highlighter orange and black 2013 MasterSbilt Indiana Pro Late Model.
The car’s body, which hosts a GM Crate Motor, is finished after fitting a GoPro camera, which will capture photos and video both inside and out of the car during the race.
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With the help of his father, Jeff, and grandfather, Donald Gardner, Lewis is ready for his third Jackson County Fair “Thursday Night Thunder.”
“I’ve always gone to the Jackson County fair races since I was little,” Lewis said. “It’s always been something that’s important to me. I’ve always wanted to win one since I was little.
“There’s normally a lot of good cars here. There’s a little more money to win. Just to make the feature (today) would be a good thing for us.”
Since he was a kid, Brownstown Speedway has been a large part of Lewis’ life.
“I grew up around Brownstown Speedway,” Lewis said. “I’ve lived in Brownstown my entire life, and there’s always been good competition here. I always came to the race track when I was little.”
Lewis started racing go-karts when he was 11 years old and made the transition to dirt racing at 15.
“We could kind of tell early on that he could drive anything,” Jeff said. “He would run in a car in our yard and spin around the trees, so then we got him into go-karts. Having Brownstown Speedway in our backyard, it felt like a good progression to race late models.
“I started bringing Skyller here when he was real little and come to the races. It’s a special place for us. It’s close to home.”
Racing has become a family event for the Lewises.
“It’s something we’ve always enjoyed as a family. It’s good family time with my dad and grandpa,” Lewis said. “My dad raced go-karts when he was younger, but that’s all. I’m the first one to race full-sized cars like this.
“Locally, that’s the only type of racing around. I raced on asphalt a couple times, just with go-karts, but it’s not nearly as much fun as when you race dirt. I’m a bigger fan of the dirt stuff than the asphalt.”
As one of the younger racers in the area, Lewis looks up to some of the more tenured drivers.
“There’s a couple that are younger here, maybe two or three, but I’m young compared to most,” Lewis said. “It’s tough because some of these other racers have been driving for 20 to 30 years. They know a lot more about the cars. It’s fun to learn from them, and hopefully, I will be like them one day 30 years from now.”
For Jeff, watching Skyller race with some of his old favorites is rewarding.
“When I see him out there on the track with guys I used to watch and was a big fan of, it’s pretty neat,” Jeff said. “Knowing that he can hang with them is pretty cool.”
Earlier this season, Lewis won his first ILMP race in North Vernon. Lewis has spent most his summer traveling around the state racing on the weekends.
“It was a dream come true,” Lewis said. “It was an amazing night. I hope we can put together another win soon.”
In a few weeks, Lewis will start college at IUPUI.
He plans on racing as much as possible until the end of the racing season.
On Thursday, Lewis finished 14th in his race.
Jackson County Grand Champion Fair Race
Third annual Paul Crockett Memorial
Where: Brownstown Speedway
When: Today, hot laps at 6:30 p.m. with race starting at 7 p.m.
Races: P3 Graphix Super Late Models. Also racing tonight will be Fast Max Modifieds, Woolston Automotive Super Stocks and Tony Ogle Expediting Express Pure Stocks.
General Admission: Adults $15, Kids (6-12) $2, Kids under 6 are free. Pit admission is an additional $15 (all ages).
Thursday Night Thunder first place results
Indiana Pro Late Model Series: Chad Stapelton, Edinburgh
UMP modifieds: Devin Gilpin, Columbus
Super Stocks: Matt Boknecht, Seymour
Hornets: Greg Garrison, Bloomington
Full results from Thursday’s race will be available in Monday’s edition of The Tribune.