It's been a decade and change since southern California's Michael Lewis began his competitive career in Quarter Midgets driving for his dad's team. A couple of championships between 2003 and 2005, in the Senior Honda and Light 160 Honda classes, instantly confirmed his obvious talent. The term "prodigy" got wildly tossed into the equation, yet Lewis' race savvy dad managed to keep that sort of thinking under control, until further down the road at least, when all the numbers can be properly added together.
Lewis is looking forward to building his relationship with the K&N family in 2014.
Michael Lewis was honored for the second year by being invited to the Formula 3 Masters at Zandvoort.
Now 22-years-old, Lewis has continued to gather experience and wisdom at triple-digit speeds, often teetering on the brink of bedlam. This year, as perhaps none before, Lewis has been tested on the track as well as in his personal life, yet he never wavers when it comes to conducting himself as a champion.
The extreme highs and lows of 2013 will no doubt make more sense in time as they unscramble in his rearview. From competing against some of the best drivers in his second RTL GP Masters of Formula 3, to his hard crash earlier this year during the Formula 3 European Championship qualifying at Brands Hatch, the young Laguna Beach native has had an eventful year, and there are plenty of headlines still to be made.
Let's begin with your health and state of mind, any lingering scars from the crash, and how are things stacking up this year with your new team?
Lewis dons a sticker on his racing helmet in memory of his friend Jason Leffler.
"The crash was pretty bad and I'm glad I was totally okay. The impact was recorded at 21G's. I weigh around 144 pounds, so multiply that by 21, and roughly 3,024 pounds of force was exerted to my head and body. I must say a big thank you to Bell Helmets and Puma for making great racing gear. And there are no lingering effects from the crash physically nor mentally. I really just confronted the situation, analyzed what I could have possibly done different, and really just hope next time for a bit of luck to not crash or hit the wall."
The Mücke Motorsport team is flat-out awesome says Lewis.
"As far as my awesome Mücke Motorsport guys, they couldn't be any better! I am so happy to be with this team and everyone from the owner Peter Mücke himself, to my engineer, my awesome mechanics, and the entire team. Mücke Motorsport is a truly superb racing team. I enjoy driving their cars every time I get into the race car."
Congratulations are in order regarding for being invited to the Masters at Zandvoort, what did you take away last year that you applied this time around?
"This is truly an awesome event because of all the history it has. I mean we race at Zandvoort during the season in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, so the track is sort of a ‘usual' track for us to visit. But, because the Masters is a one-off race with so much history like the Macau Grand Prix, it's cool to be a part of that and possibly get into the record books for a win."
"Although I didn't get the finish I wanted (12th), I prepared for it taking some things from the 2012 race. Mainly managing the tires was the biggest thing. The Kumho, which we use at the Masters is a very ‘peaky' tire, whilst the Hankook that we usually run, tends to get better and better over a run of 8 to 10 laps."
This year you've faced down a number of usually tough personal challenges, including the passing of your friend Jason Leffler, how are you dealing, and how's it affecting your focus?
"You brought up a cool thing in referencing Jason Leffler. I mean, it was pretty difficult to hear what happened, and honestly it was a total shock. Jason was such a big influence in my life. I can remember him when I was at the race track watching my dad's No.9 Midget team, and he was always really cool to me and it was awesome to see him race."
"As I grew up and started to race cars myself, Jason was always around and interested in what I was doing. I now run a sticker on my racing helmet in memory of Jason and I will donate the proceeds from my merchandise (arriving soon) to The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust to help Jason's son. I'll always miss you my friend - RIP."
On a more upbeat note, have you started thinking about next season?
"I'm totally excited about possibilities. I'd like to keep building with the K&N family, as we've been partners since 2010. It's so cool that K&N has been a major driving force behind my career and I must thank Steve Williams and Tony Yorkman for all that they do. It was really cool to see K&N stick behind me after the unknowns of this past winter, so I'm totally pumped to get some great results before we finish out this a year with Formula 3."
And along those lines, what are your thoughts about returning to Norisring in Nuremberg next week?
"It's the first street course we will run on this year, so it's cool to be on a different style circuit. It's super fast and everyone runs LDF settings so the draft or tow is really important. You've just got to keep driving and know that the track is going to get better and better. So any set up changes made early on might have to be re-analyzed once the track has been used a bit more. It'll be fun."