THE BEST DAY EVER
Mike Bowman’s Odyssey to a $100K Pro Mod Payday
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.