When you have Ron Hornaday Jr. as your mentor, you know you’re going places. That is the case for 17-year-old Landen Lewis, who is making his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut in the No. 04 Roper Racing Chevrolet Silverado this weekend.
The rising star is currently leading the ARCA Menards Series West points standings in the No.17 entry for McGowan Motorsports. So far this season, Lewis has captured four top-ten finishes and an impressive win at Portland International Raceway against NASCAR Xfinity Series regular, Cole Custer.
Lewis believes he can take what he learned from his win at Portland and apply it to his first NASCAR National Series start at Mid-Ohio. However, he notes that the learning curve from ARCA to Truck is steep.
“I have a lot of laps in the sim here already, but the biggest thing is getting used to the truck compared to the ARCA car, thats the big thing,” Lewis explained to TobyChristie.com on Friday. “They’re a lot more top-heavy, a lot more power.”
This opportunity is a full-circle moment for the young driver. His crew chief this weekend, Bruce Cook, has been by his side in ARCA West with Cook Racing Technologies. He was also an advocate for Lewis’ opportunity in Truck.
“Bruce [was] actually crew chief for this truck a couple [of] times this year with Johnny Sauter. Bruce just kind of threw my name in there cause they were looking for a driver and it just so happened to be a road course. It’s just a really neat deal for me to be with Roper Racing and Carquest and everyone with the Roper family,” Lewis said.
Not only will Cook be there for him, but Lewis will make his debut with Ron Hornaday Jr., a four-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer, by his side.
Lewis joined Team Hornaday Development in 2017 with Hornaday as his mentor. Hornaday, who was on-hand at the track on Friday, praised his driver on the FS1 broadcast.
“I think he’s putting Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to shame because he’s a lot younger starting out and they’re a little older. He’s just got the willpower, the want. He studies racing he loves racing. He works on all the cars all day long,” Hornaday stated.
The Hornaday family travels to almost every race with Lewis, cheering him on and providing guidance. Lewis explains how much their support means to him, especially on a weekend as important as his NASCAR Truck Series debut.
“Having Ron here with me is a very special moment,” Lewis said. “They’re really really huge for my career, the Hornaday family. They’ve welcomed me into their family like I’m one of their own so I can’t thank them enough. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Lewis ran 29th in the lone practice session for the weekend on Friday and he improved his position in qualifying. Lewis will start Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio from the 22nd position.
If the youngster can keep finding the balance on his No. 04 truck, who knows what the end result can be on Saturday?
“I think we can free it up a little bit [and] I mean I can do a bit of a better job putting a little bit more rear brake into it. We’re locking the fronts up going into the corner. So, I can do a better job inside the cockpit,” Lewis explained.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is set for Saturday, July 8th at 1:30 PM ET. The television broadcast of the race will be provided by FS1 while MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio call of the event.