THE BEST DAY EVER

Mike Bow­man’s Odyssey to a $100K Pro Mod Pay­day

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ASK SOME­ONE ABOUT THEIR BEST DAY EVER AND YOU MIGHT HEAR STO­RIES ABOUT WHEN THEY MET (OR LEFT) THEIR SPOUSE, WHEN THEIR KID WAS BORN, OR WHEN THEY ACHIEVED A LON­GAWAITED DREAM. From Mike Bow­man, you might learn that his best day was some­thing of a sur­prise.

If you rewind to the mid-’90s, street car rac­ing was mak­ing big noise with com­peti­tors, hot-rod­ding me­dia and the per­for­mance af­ter­mar­ket. Pro Street was the top of the food chain, and the sea­son-end­ing Fastest Street Car event at Mem­phis was its Wood­stock. Win­ning a cov­eted Top Ten jacket was con­sid­ered a life­time achieve­ment.

In the midst of all this, in 1995, a rel­a­tive un­known was mak­ing the long trek from Cal­i­for­nia to at­tend Mem­phis and other Pro Street shows around the coun­try. With a back-halved ’68 Chev­elle on ni­trous and a Turbo 400 be­hind it, Bow­man qui­etly won more than a few Su­per Chevy shows and big NSCA events, in­clud­ing Union Grove. Even with his suc­cess, Bow­man la­bored in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity. Even­tu­ally keep­ing pace went be­yond what his car could do, and it was time to step things up.

Bow­man went to a full tube-frame car with a 700inch turbo com­bi­na­tion in 2000, mak­ing him one of the early big tire cars run­ning such a com­bi­na­tion. Boost con­trol was a work in progress; the worst hap­pened while rac­ing at Com­merce where his tires spun, send­ing him into the wall. Knocked un­con­scious, he woke up while be­ing loaded into an am­bu­lance, but that didn’t knock the de­sire to race out of him. He ac­quired a Monte Carlo just a few months later, but even­tu­ally took a breather in 2006.

The fol­low­ing year, he stayed closer to his West Coast home base, and won a hand­ful of PSCA events,

but he ul­ti­mately came to the re­al­iza­tion that things were feel­ing like they had with the Chev­elle.

So, he sold the Monte Carlo and res­ur­rected the Chev­elle with Pro Mod in mind.

Bow­man be­gan 2010 with a Brad An­der­son twin turbo bul­let, be­com­ing the first on the West Coast to dip into the fives while win­ning the NMCA West ti­tle. Prov­ing that feat was no fluke, he fin­ished sec­ond in 2013 and in the Top Ten the next two years be­fore an ugly top-end crash

KO’d his sea­son. A com­bi­na­tion of bad things cre­ated a driver’s worst night­mare: ’Chutes failed to de­ploy, send­ing him into the sand trap on fire with the driver’s door pinned shut against the bar­rier net. Not only was he now short a car, but his plans of rac­ing in NHRA’s Real Pro Mod se­ries were ka­put.

Bow­man proved to be re­silient. In 2016, he re­turned from Jerry Bickel’s shop with a new Chev­elle body from Andy McCoy Race

Cars. His per­for­mance at the

2016 NHRA U.S. Na­tion­als turned more than a few heads when he carded a sub-track record 5.821 with a best speed of 256.89 mph to qual­ify third. He fol­lowed up his Indy ef­fort by qual­i­fy­ing sixth at the sea­son’s fi­nal Pro Mod race in Ve­gas. In 2017, Bow­man has been able to at­tend sev­eral more events and broke through with his first round win at Bris­tol. For a guy on a tight bud­get, lit­tle test time, lim­ited race sched­ule, plus greater travel dis­tances than oth­ers, he was mak­ing steady progress.

Even so, he wasn’t the first

choice to at­tend the win­ner­take-all World Se­ries of Pro Mod event at Bandimere Speed­way in Den­ver. Bow­man was in­vited at the last minute when the or­ga­nizer re­al­ized there would be a short field of cars. Bow­man faced the mother of all thrashes. He had to lo­cate and then change the con­verter and gears, tweak the tune-up, and then drive to Den­ver—all in 24 hours! Once he ar­rived at the track he had to as­sem­ble a crew to as­sist him.

Bow­man had his mojo work­ing. He was the first to make an out-ofthe-box full pass, which proved to be the first-ever five-sec­ond run by a doorslam­mer at Bandimere. The event’s unique “no score­board dis­play” rules kept rac­ers guess­ing as to how their com­pe­ti­tion was per­form­ing—and con­se­quently what their set-ups should be— which worked to Bow­man’s ad­van­tage. In the end, be­ing able to fo­cus on driv­ing, rather than per­for­mance, won the day as he was on and off the throt­tle sev­eral times be­fore cross­ing the fin­ish line with a 6.274/238.70-mph win over run­ner-up Steven Whitely, who slowed to a 7.787-sec­ond pass.

“The $100,000 will go quickly,” a se­ri­ous Bow­man says, “but I’m es­pe­cially grate­ful that my wife Kristy, daugh­ters Kas­sidy and

Kayla and my step­son Bobby were all able to be there with me. I also have to thank Ray Coburn, Wes Buck, Harry Hruska, Brad Per­son­net, Chris Cas­tanza, Marty Grinde, Alex Grinder, and Brian and Tay­lor Strange, as well as Ja­son Pet­tis Speed Shop who helped make all this pos­si­ble.

“This was like win­ning 10 NHRA Pro Mod races all at once,” he con­tin­ues, “but I won’t feel whole un­til I can win an NHRA event. I’m far from done!”

Un­til that hap­pens, the $100 grand in his back pocket and that one-of-a-kind cham­pi­onship belt will have to suf­fice … as his best day ever.

This was like win­ning 10 NHRA Pro Mod races all at once, but I won’t feel whole un­til I can win an NHRA event. I’m far from done! —Mike Bow­man

Ex­cept for a brief fling with a Monte Carlo, Chev­elle has been Bow­man’s body style of choice. Here’s his 2002 Pro Street en­try.

Check out the Tech Sheet (pg. 20) for de­tails on the 522-ci, BAE-based en­gine.

Strange En­gi­neer­ing is the main parts source for the Chev­elle’s hindquar­ters, pro­vid­ing third mem­ber, axles, gears and brakes. Ki­netic En­gi­neer­ing pro­vided the shocks.

The Bickel Race Cars in­te­rior is a tidy unit. Bow­man has plenty to keep him oc­cu­pied on his five-sec­ond sprints.

How would you like to take this check to bank? [L to R): John Bandimere II, Mike Bow­man and Wes Buck.

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