My Formula 5000
Randy Lewis
If you asked Europeans who follow the sport closely, to name the best
American road racing drivers, he would likely name Mark Donohue,
Mario Andretti, George Follmer and
Randy Lewis.
Randy Lewis??
To 99% of American enthusiasts that would come as something of a
shock for a very good reason. They have never even heard of Randy
Lewis.
You must understand that Europeans, with some justification, consider
most of the “big names” in American road racing to be merely glorified
club racers. From their way of thinking, if a young driver Is to prove
himself, he must do so against the best young drivers in the world.
Randy Lewis did.
Lewis a 29-year-old native of Atlanta spent three years proving
himself under the most demanding of circumstances. The ferociously
competitive European Formula Three circuit.
In the United States, auto racing means many things; stocks, drags, off-
road, midgets, sprints, etc. In Europe, auto racing means one thing;
road racing Here, a serious young driver can have any one of many
goals, NASCAR Grand Nationals, the USAC Championship trail,
professional Drag racing or professional road racing. In Europe there
is only one goal; Formula One, and only one way to get there,
succeeding In Formula Three. Formula Three is the stepping stone to
Grand Prlx racing. Success on that level led drivers such as Stewart,
Peterson, Fittipaldi, Beltoise, Depallier and Pryce directly to Formula
One.
Like so many newcomers to racing. Randy Lewis dreamt of Formula
One right from the beginning, but, first he had to learn his craft and
find out if he had what It takes.
Lewis began racing in 1969, the same year that saw him graduate from
San Jose State College. Driving a Lotus 23B, partially financed by
student loans his first season netted a C Sports Racing regional
championship.
In 1970, while working on an MBA In marketing at Berkley, he
campaigned an under financed Brabham BT-29 In the highly
competitive Continental Formula B series. Consistently running near
the front, this first involvement in professional racing resulted in a fifth
place in the series and his being named “Rookie Of The Year” by the
press.
“At the end of that season I qualified on the  first row at Mosport, the
track I consider to be the most demanding in North America. It was
then that I decided I could hack it as a true professional and set my
sights directly on Europe and Formula One.”
Randy Lewis did not waste any time in raising European eyebrows. His
first Formula Three race was at the most difficult of circuits; Monaco. It
was also his first time driving his new car and his first ever race in the
rain. One hundred- twenty four of the best and most dedicated young
drivers in Europe vied for the twenty-four starting positions. Lewis
qualified 12th,  took a sixth In his heat and finished twelfth overall. A  
most impressive first time effort. He was on his way.
Lewis went on to take a third at Chimay besting winner James Hunt for
the lap record. He out qualified local favorite Jochen Mass in Germany
and scored three seconds and two outright wins ending the season as
the highest placed 1st year driver in Formula Three.
His most memorable drive, however, was in a race he did not even
finish. “In Britain I was swapping the lead with Jody Scheckter. It was a
great race and we were really going at it when third place man David
Purly drove into the rear of my car putting me out. But, that’s just
indicative of how close and jugular the competition in Europe is. In the
formula races 1 ran in this country I rarely had a chance to it really mix
it up. In Europe I rarely had a chance not to”
Formula Three not only tests a driver’s on track skills, it also tests his
dedication. Lewis lived a gypsy life in Europe, sleeping in the back of
his van, eating sandwiches and spending the untold hours preparing
his car and driving to the next race.
For 1972 his goal was to find sponsorship. He succeeded. “I was lucky
enough to sign with Wrangler Sportswear. They had already signed
Jackie Stewart,
but, felt I could add to their race-oriented marketing program. The
Wrangler Racing Team was used in store promotions, trade fairs and
also featured in much of their advertising. It worked out great for both
Wrangler and myself.
His heavy involvement in promotion, however. In no way interfered with
his on track performances. 1972 and 73 saw him continue his success
In Formula Three with wins in such prestigious events as Salzburg,
Austria and the Formula Three race pre- ceding the Dutch Grand Prix.
Perhaps the fact that speaks most highly of his skill in his private
Brabham, was that he often outran now grand prix driver Tony Brise,
who drove the works Brabham, Anytime a privateer goes quicker than
the factory car, people notice.
Among those who noticed was Wrangler, They were so pleased with
their involvement with Lewis that plans were made to move up to
Formula Two in 1974. Then disaster struck. The fuel crisis triggered
near panic in the European economy and at the last minute the
Formula Two plans were shelved.
“When you are really serious like I am, and your goal of Formula One
seems so close, it is really heart breaking to see a whole season
wasted. Especially when it is caused by factors beyond your control.
Except for a miserable excursion into Super vee, 1974 was a complete
write off.”
Actually, Lewis’ two race foray into Super Vee may not have produced
any results, but, after a season of inactivity, it did prove he had not lost
his touch. At Ontario he started at the back of the grid in a borrowed
club racing car with a tired engine. When the flag dropped he carved
his way by THIRTY-TWO cars before a souring motor ended his
charge. You know how high a man’s standards have become when a
performance that would have been the drive of a lifetime to so many is
sluffed off as a “miserable excursion.”
Undaunted by a depressed economy that is seeing such big name
efforts as Mario Andretti’s Formula One program go un sponsored,
Lewis gave it his all to get something going in 1975. You are seeing
the result this weekend. It was Randy Lewis who put together the deal
for Wrangler to sponsor not only his car, but also the Road Atlanta
F-5000 weekend.
“Believe me, I’m more than aware of how tough it is going to be to
enter a highly competitive series in the middle of the season with a
used racing car that I’ve only had for a few weeks. But, with any kind of
luck I should make a respectable showing. It’s an opportunity I’ve
worked hard for and I have got to make the most of it.”
No matter what happens this weekend. Formula One is still his goal
and opportunity is the key. As the respected British journalist, Mike
Doodson, has said, “Randy Lewis just needs one thing to make it in
Formula One; the opportunity.”

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Wrangler Wracing Team
1975
Richard Lewis Lola T332 #28