When Tina Bowles called me about three weeks before Bowles Farms race weekend and told me to call her husband Tommy because he had something important to tell me, I immediately dialed his number, while picturing him atop his tractor or backhoe tending to his family farm. “We’ve brought in 30 loads of clay, big super bleachers and the place looks like a NASCAR race track,” said Tommy. “I want you to tell everyone we are putting in 120% effort this year.” And with those words, I knew the 2011 Bowles Farms event was going to be the best ever, because Tommy Bowles always puts in 120% effort, so when he says 120%, it really means 150%! GAME ON!
After a record-breaking heat wave the previous weekend, Southern Maryland enjoyed a break in the weather during the August 5-6 weekend, with temperatures in the mower 90s a welcome respite from the 100+-degree days the week before. The USLMRA / STA-BIL team arrived on Thursday, with USLMRA VP / Director of Timing & Scoring Kerry Evans; Chief Steward Rodney Peeler; National Tech Director Manny Torres; Engine AnswerMan Bobby Cleveland and Yours Truly enjoying the hospitality of Tina, Tommy, Nancy, Ricky, Cindy and crew during the day. Ronnie Mattingly of the Seventh District Rescue Squad and St. Mary’s County Optimist Club was on hand to make sure event set-up moved along at a good pace. Maryland crab cakes and scallops were plentiful as the relaxed day on Thursday and dinner on Thursday night saw members of the DelMarVa and East Tennessee Lawn Mower Racing Associations enjoy some pre-race socializing.
Friday, August 5 was Day One of Bowles Farms Weekend. The event was part of our new U.S. Open Program, billed as the U.S. Eastern Seaboard Open. New racers from across the area were expected and anticipation to run on the excellent Bowles Farms Track was high.
By the 7:00pm race time, 82 mowers were registered in nine STA-BIL Lawn & Garden Mower Racing Series and U.S. Open Classes. Racers from Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee were eager to hit the 0.124-mile dirt track.
John Michael Bell from the East Tennessee LMRA continued his dominance in the JP Class while Wally Bender out of DelMarVa grabbed checkers in the IMOW class holding off Tommy Hawley and Tina Paccione.
Pete Sullivan held off his dad Rocket Man Pat Sullivan in AP with a 0.202 margin of victory, while Tommy Hawley, Matthew Moran and Vickie Nahas earned a trip to the Trophy Stand.
In SP Class, Michael Paccione held a comfortable lead to grab victory over Wally Bender by 0.532 with Matt Strine, Jackie Andrews and Pat Gore finishing strong. Hometown favorite Jason Brown of Party Time Racing did not finish the race, after coming out strong to the cheers of the 2,500 race fans packed around the Bowles Farms track. Lee Grover out of New Jersey was especially impressive in his CP Class victory, and Chuck Miller had one of his best runs in recent memory in the BP Class coasting to a victory by a margin of 14.722 over Ron Rollman and the remainder of the BP field. Another disappointment for the St. Mary’s County race fans was Jason Brown not starting the BP Race.
The Factory Experimental; (FX) race saw the unfortunate injury of DelMarVa President Manny Torres who tangled up on the back stretch and saw his season come to an abrupt end. Christopher Cox out of Georgia and James Klauss from Pennsylvania finished 1-2 to earn some well-needed points. The U.S. Open single Class saw Cortney Murphy and Scott Deeter put on one heck of a race with the U.S. Open Twin Class concluding the evening with Jayson Mikula, Jim Mikula and James Klauss finishing Top 3 while our old buddy Kevin Specht did not start.
Saturday, August 6 broke clear, sunny and hot with the chance of rain moving in later in the day. The second day of a race weekend is always more relaxed, and such was the case this time. I had the chance to visit and socialize, getting caught up with “old timers” like Duane “Bud” Ferguson out of Iowa who took a brake from chasing wild fires in Texas to come out and race. I also stopped for a moment in the spot where the dear departed Sam Rogers pitted last year, the last time I saw him, and passed on some good vibes for Sam, promising him that the upcoming Sam Rogers U.S. All American Open will honor his memory in fine fashion.
As 7:00pm race time approached, Mother Nature decided to do her thing, and let loose with some rain. After consulting with our venue hosts, Tommy and Ronnie, we made the decision to run a 20 lap feature race only, and this turned out to be a good decision, as the track came in quite well, and we finished racing by 9:30 with the 2,700 people staying on site the entire time.
The evening started with a tribute to Zach “ZJ” Hill, a member of the St. Mary’s County Race Committee who we lost earlier this year. Then, Tommy Bowles presented the annual Sportsman’s Award to Wally Bender, who is most deserving of this honor. As the microphone was passed on to B-Man and Bubba of SSS Entertainment and local race announcer “Roger Dodger” – it was mow time again.
John Michael Bell (JP) and Wally Bender (IMOW) grabbed checkers for the second consecutive evening. Tommy Hawley took first place in AP after his disappointing AP run on Friday night where he had the checkers in site only to have mechanical failure on lap 16. Matthew Moran and Vickie Nahas returned to the Trophy Stand along with Pat Sullivan.
IN SP, all eyes were on hometown favorite Racin’ Jason Brown, and he did not disappoint this night. His pole-to-pole victory off the inside starting position on the rolling start grid energized the crowd. The cheers and screams of the Party Time race fans have become legendary at Bowles Farms and Racin’ Jason got it done for them. Wally Bender, Matt Strine, Michael Butler out of Connecticut and Jackie Andrews joined Jason on the Trophy Stand.
The CP Class saw Tom Flynn out of East Tennessee (5th) and Kevin Ferguson from Maryland (4th) run especially well while Pete Sullivan, Michael Paccione and Lee Grover finished 1-2-3.
The BP Race saw Chuck Miller repeat his strong performance of Friday night with Bobby Cleveland, Ron Rollman, Jim Mikula and Kody Bennet finishing 2-5. The BP race also saw Chief Steward Rodney Peeler gain new respect from the racers with his decision to make a “non call” after a pile up near Turn 3. Since he did not see the incident, he decided to keep the racers in running order, and then after the race gathered them together to explain the rationale behind his decision. This demonstrates Rodney’s exceptional ability as a chief Steward and he gained more respect than ever, following in the footsteps of other Chief Stewards who have come before him.
The FX Class saw Wally Bender, James Klauss and Chris Cox finish 1-2-3 and the combined U.S. Open Twin Class saw James Klauss, Cortney Murphy and Kevin Specht thrill the crowd with some super fast racing with James Klauss turning in a best lap of 14.353.
The racing portion of the evening concluded with new racing star Anya Murphy, age 8, on her new Junior Outlaw Mower, holding off Pat Sullivan and Bobby Cleveland to grab the checkers and a First Place on the Trophy Stand, a place where she will surely return to many times in her future lawn mower racing career.
And then, it was Party Time! B-Man and Bubba set up the SSS Entertainment sound system right on the track, and with Tommy and Tina Bowles taking the first dance on the front stretch of the track, it was time to boogie into the night. But that’s a story best told in person next time you see me!
Thank you St. Mary’s County for a real, good time!!!!