Puyallup: Sports

Young racer comes of age; now poised to blaze road ahead

Devin Lewis, 17, sits in his dragster last week in Sumner. Lewis is part of a group of local young drag racers who compete locally and along the West Coast.
Devin Lewis, 17, sits in his dragster last week in Sumner. Lewis is part of a group of local young drag racers who compete locally and along the West Coast. Staff photographer

Two simple words adorn the front bar of the roll cage of Devin Lewis’ junior dragster: Half Scale.

But the phrase isn’t an indication of who Lewis is as a driver in the National Hot Rod Association’s junior division. Nothing Lewis does is half scale.

It’s full throttle for this adrenaline junky.

“I get into a zone (racing). It’s a good feeling being behind the wheel and beating the racers,” Lewis said. “I’m one of the top racers at the track, and it’s good being known around my (circuit).”

Lewis is closing in on a milestone this summer. Years of success has culminated in 90-plus victories at the track, and the teenager is now approaching the 100-win milestone in the near future. This success is all about relief — from both a personal standpoint as well as reaching his early career milestone.

“In my very first race, I won it, in 2006 at Pacific Raceways,” Lewis said. “I was really nervous the night before … I was extremely lucky with that race because it kind of set the tone for my career.”

That first race left an lasting mark, as Lewis now sees himself a part of the future of NHRA senior circuit — one he hopes to dominate in due time.

“I definitely see myself making this a career,” Lewis said. “I want to race professionally with the senior division. Right now is (about) getting that experience and winning to get my chance.”

Lewis has learned to appreciate these moments in his racing career. As the season winds down, Lewis is fully aware that his career is finite — it can be taken from him. It’s a lesson this Bonney Lake High School senior learned only a handful of years ago.

Four years ago, Lewis — now 17 years old — just didn’t get what it took to succeed at life. School and his personal life took a toll on a him.

Ever since he was little, Lewis had been racing. But then it stopped.

“I didn’t do the things my family wanted me to do or needed,” Lewis said. “I didn’t get it … and then when I struggled in school, I had racing taken from me for about a year. That was tough because I was just starting to really get into racing.”

Growing up and learning how to be an adult is tough on teenagers. Sometimes there’s a need for people to step in and help.

That’s when Devin’s uncle, Jim, challenged him to be better. He pushed the teenager to fulfill his obligations with both school and family before he could race. So at 13 years old, drag racing was taken from him. This was supposed to be the beginning his life and then it was gone.

“I knew I had to take care of my responsibilities with school and with my family,” Lewis admitted. “I didn’t see that at first, but that year away from racing opened my eyes.”

“He learned to appreciate what he had, and he started to understand racing more,” Jim Lewis said. “We took it away because he wasn’t fulfilling requirements. Once he got his school back in check, he started racing again.”

It was everything to Lewis, and to lose it so quickly hurt.

“I (now) make sure I take care of my business outside of racing first,” the teenager said. “Racing comes second — I don’t want to lose my chance to race again.”

That one year of Lewis’ life dug into the core of who he is and wanted to be. From the first time he strapped on a helmet and stepped into his dragster, Lewis knew this was his life.

“Once racing gets in your blood, you become addicted to it,” Jim Lewis said. “Racing professionally is what Devin wants to do. I hope that 30 years from now we’re all still going out racing on weekends.”

Jim Lewis doesn’t have to worry about that last part. The season may be closing, but for Devin Lewis’ career, there’s still plenty of road left ahead of him.