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Steve Lewis Jr.’s Unlikely Journey to ARCA Racing at Daytona

(Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

It had always been a dream for Steve Lewis Jr. to race in NASCAR.

In February at Daytona International Speedway, those dreams were fulfilled in the ARCA Menards Series season opener.

“It was always something that I wanted to do,” Lewis said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a few years. I started saving up and then talking to some people.”

Back in November, Lewis didn’t expect it to happen when it did.

Lewis, 24, lives in Ransomville, New York, a town located 30 miles north of Buffalo. He grew up going to Ransomville Speedway, following in the footsteps of his father, who also raced.

Since 2017, Lewis has raced dirt modifieds, debuting in the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series in 2021. He qualified for the Salute to the Troops 150 in Super DIRT Week, a premier race at Oswego Speedway, in each of the last two seasons.

Once the dirt track season ended, Lewis went to work on buying a stock car. He called Kyle Sieg, a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, and purchased an intermediate track chassis around Thanksgiving.

Lewis drove to Georgia in December and picked up the car, which needed a lot of work.

“The motor wasn’t in it, the transmission wasn’t in it, the rear end wasn’t in it,” Lewis said. “It was set up last for an intermediate track. There was a lot of stuff we had to do suspension-wise to convert it to make it into a speedway car.

“I had to buy the seat, mount the seat. There was a lot of things that took a lot of time, especially not knowing the ins and outs of an ARCA car.”

Lewis leaned on Andy Jankowiak, a fellow Buffalo-area ARCA driver, for help in the process.

“Every part I needed was basically in the Mooresville, [North Carolina] area. [Jankowiak] was able to help me out getting a lot of parts transported back and forth,” he said. “Just a lot of the setup knowledge as well. He helped me out with setup for Daytona, driving advice … the whole thing, Andy’s helped out quite a bit with.”

In January, Lewis headed to Daytona with his No. 62 car for the annual pre-season practice session. He needed to test out the car and adapt to driving on a superspeedway.

At the same time, ARCA needed to approve Lewis to race.

(Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

“I was a little nervous. You don’t know what to expect. I’ve never driven anything like this,” Lewis said. “We went out and we did a lot of single car [runs] at first, and our single car speed was right on par with a lot of the other cars.

“We got approved on that weekend. That was a pretty exciting drive home.”

Lewis focused on funding the race and putting together the final pieces. He held a series of raffles and allowed fans to put their name on the car in exchange for a donation.

As he’s new to ARCA, Lewis said, he’s struggled to land sponsors.

“It’s tough for me to get some sponsors right now just because I’m so new to the ARCA deal,” Lewis said. “Not a lot of people know about us right now. We’re a pretty small team. It’s mainly just me and my dad and a couple other friends that get the car together.”

The race weekend was a success despite qualifying 24th. Lewis rode toward the back of the draft and avoided trouble, racing conservatively and bringing the car home in one piece.

“As a driver, that was tough because I want to go to the front and I feel like I had a pretty fast car,” Lewis said. “[My spotter] kept telling me we got to conserve the car and make it all 8o laps.”

In the closing laps, Lewis increased his aggression. The bottom line started moving and he capitalized, coming across the line 13th in his debut.

“The last couple [laps] to go, I went for it,” he said. “My spotter just said ‘keep coming, keep coming,’ and I just hugged the yellow line. There was quite a bit of movement there on the last corner. I think I went from outside the top 20 to 13th on the last lap. That was pretty fun, just holding on the bottom and seeing everything go on around you.”

Lewis hopes his team will be able to race at Talladega Superspeedway next month. But that will depend on funding and sponsorship.

Bringing home a clean car from Daytona helps that effort.

“I think Talladega would be a pretty cool experience,” Lewis said. “Do a little bit of work to the car, make it a little faster. With that work that we’re going to do, I think we’ll have a pretty fast car that’s capable of competing in the top 10, top five.”

Down the road, Lewis hopes he can expand to an extended or full-time ARCA schedule. He’d like to race on intermediates and short tracks but will need to purchase more cars.

For now, it’s back to Ransomville Speedway for another summer in Western New York.

“I still plan on being at Ransomville and racing the dirt modified throughout this summer,” he said. “I’m so new to the ARCA deal and just feeling it out and seeing how our progress goes.”

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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