Its drivers were just as dialed in on the tree as they were on the top end, and among them was multi-time champion Donnie Bowles.
Having logged a lot of laps through the years, Bowles is well aware of what it takes to get to the series’ Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle, and he showed that he had his sights set on doing just that with an .012 reaction time to qualify in the fourth spot at the event, which was May 2-5.
“I sang Elvis Presley’s ‘He Touched Me’ during the chapel service with Randy Ferrell, and I was pumped up about racing after that,” said Bowles, whose son, Cameron Bowles, and teammate, Susan Roush McClenaghan, were also in MagnaFuel Open Comp competition that weekend. “After we returned to our pit area and checked our weather stations and a few other things, we were ready for the first round of eliminations.”
With that, he chose a 9.73 as his dial-in, pulled up alongside Gordon Laster and his Cougar and put the pedal down.
“I caught him quicker than I thought I should, and I tapped the brakes at the mile-per-hour cone, but then at the finish line, my car suddenly started coming around and before I knew it, I was pointed toward the wall,” said Bowles. “I tried to straighten the car out, but the quarter panel slapped the wall, followed by the front fender. The nose of the car dipped hard and then the car just made a left. It didn’t even bobble or shimmy. As soon as it hit the wall, I thought to myself, ‘So that’s what it feels like,’ and there was a sensation under my arm and down to my waist. Then, I got on my radio and said to my crew ‘I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.’”
While Bowles was not seriously hurt in what was his first wreck in his long racing career, his car was. Steve Matukas, who had reworked the car back in 2008 and was at the event, inspected it after it was returned to the pit area on a flat-bed to determine what it would take to put it back together. Then, he helped Bowles load it into the trailer.
“We have to replace the quarter panel, the wishbone, the A-arms and the driver’s side wheels, which were rolled off the tires in the wreck,” said Bowles. “The taillight is broken, but believe it or not, the mirror, which was torn off and went flying, was not broken. We took the car to Steve Matukas’ shop to be put back together. He found a salvage yard near his place and he got the quarter panel, taillight and rear fascia, and everything else we are getting together, and some of the body kit is coming from Roush. Because the rear end took a hit, we’ll put a new Moser nine-inch rear end and new Moser axles in the car.”
Bowles’ 5.4 Four-Valve bored and stroked 377 cubic-inch engine, which was built by Roush Competition Engines, was not compromised in the wreck, and to the amazement of many, Matukas intends to have Bowles’ car put back together in time to compete in Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle at the Inaugural NMRA Ford Gateway Rumble presented by HPJ Performance, May 16-19 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Illinois.
“Lots of people have called to check on me, and I’m really thankful to all of them, and to my team, including my son, Cameron Bowles, Susan Roush McClenaghan, Josie McClenaghan, Steve and Cathy Fackender, Cal Hartline, and Bobbie Barrick,” said Bowles.
(Photos courtesy of NMCA and Donnie Bowles)