Highmark Camp Hill, Parkhurst Dining Services
Camp Hill, Pa.
Born in: Harrisburg, Pa.
Lives in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with wife Diane.
Has one son, Stephen, 28
Ron Lewis, general manager for Parkhurst Dining Services at Highmark Camp Hill, grew up watching sprint car races near his hometown in Pennsylvania. Lewis always said once he had a career where he had nights and weekends off, he would race a sprint car of his own. For the past 10 years, Lewis has done exactly that.
“I grew up around auto racing. There were some guys at my dad’s work who actually owned and raced cars. From my earliest memories I remember going to Williams Grove Speedway and Silver Spring Speedway and watching these guys. It was kind of neat that we actually knew them too. We always watched sprint car racing on a dirt track, which is what I do now.
My brother helped me learn how to race. The thing about these cars is they don’t work properly unless you go fast. The hardest thing to learn in them is the fact that your reaction is usually the opposite of what you should do. For example, when you are heading the wrong way you want to hit the throttle, not the brake because the car doesn’t want to turn unless it’s up to speed. The cars work better at high speeds. My brother helped me out greatly. I’d tell him, ‘this thing feels like it’s going to flip over,’ and he’d say, ‘that’s perfect.’ He’d say, ‘you looked good out there.’ ‘Well I didn’t feel good.’ The better the car is working, the more out of control it feels.
I started racing about 10 years ago. I was working in restaurants and hotels and never had nights or weekends off, but I would help my brother when I had the opportunity. I always swore I would get one if I ever had a job where I had weekends or nights off. When I moved into corporate foodservice, I finally had that opportunity. Within the first year of working in corporate foodservice, I bought a micro sprint car, which is just a smaller version of a sprint car.
Anyone and brother can buy a car and race it, although it does help if you know people. There’s a lot to learn about setting up a car and the engines and stuff like that. If you have somebody who can help you get going you are going to enjoy yourself a lot more. The people who are at the tracks are a pretty tight-knit community. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would not want to help someone starting out. It benefits everybody that everyone is going in the right direction at the same speeds.
We’re very fortunate in this area to have about 10 tracks within two hours. Each track has its own safety requirements, so as long as you meet those and you pay your money, they’ll let you race. I’ve been running a traveling series that runs twice a month. It’s called the 600 Pro Series. You pay an entry fee and then that locks you in for the series. It’s a 10-race series and it travels along to different tracks in the area. You run against the tracks’ regulars. It’s usually about 15 or 20 cars that run together.
I’ve been in some crashes but nothing really bad. I’ve had the wind knocked out of me a few times. The cars are pretty safe. The crashes that I was in . . . well, of course, they were not my fault. Sometimes you are just going for the same space as someone else.
It’s the speed that does it for me. It gets my ya-yas going. These cars, depending on the track, can go anywhere from 80 to 110 mph on the straightaways. You average around the track about 60 to 95 mph. It also depends on the track—some are banked and some are flat—and I definitely prefer banked. It’s just faster.”