Covington Race Car Driver's Tragic Death May Have Paved Way for Mario Andretti's Rise
Mon, 08/25/2014 - 06:45 RCN Newsdesk
Local author John Lucas has just released his first book detailing the auto racing career of Covington race car legend Stan Bowman.
His book The Bravest of them All highlights Bowman's rise to fame, aggressive driving style and tragic death.
Bowman burst onto the auto racing scene with an historic victory at the Eldora Speedway in 1962 against the likes Parnelli Jones, Johnny Rutherford, and Jim Hurtubise. Bowman was well on his way to becoming the first local racer to have a legitimate shot at winning the Indy 500 when a tragic accident cost him his life.
The book includes a foreword by NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart who now owns the Eldora Speedway
Rick Robinson, a contributor to The River City News, had the chance to sit down recently with John Lucas and talk about Stan Bowman.
RR - John thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Tell me how this book came to be.
JL - Growing up, I went to many sprint car races and my father was a friend of Stan's. I knew that Stan was a special driver because he was a track champion at Lawrenceburg Speedway in 1960. In 1962 he was given an opportunity by a gentleman named Harold Beck from Dayton, Ohio to drive a USAC sprint car To the shock of everyone, except those who knew Stan locally, he won the race and beat several drivers who were veterans of the Indy 500. That was big news in racing in 1962. I'm sure Stan, on that day, had no idea what it would mean for his career.
RR - What made Stan Bowman such a special driver?
JL - Stan had an ability to get the very best out of a race car. Also, he was fearless in his driving style in a very dangerous and unsafe sport. Also, as a 32-year-old rookie he was mature and more than ready to take on and beat the tops guns in racing. It kind of reminded me of the movie The Natural where he just showed up on the USAC racing scene and was an immediate success. His career in USAC was too brief, but in 1962, this young man who lived in Covington, Kentucky was finishing ahead of Parnelli Jones, A.J Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and other famous names in racing.
RR – It’s been 50 years. Why tell this story now?
JL - The ultimate idea was to simply keep his name alive because history is full of people who almost made it and are now small footnotes in a trivia book. It started out as an article in Northern Kentucky Heritage Magazine but, through my research and events that took place after the article came out, I knew that an article wouldn't do Stan justice. This is a fellow who was recruited, after only a few races, to drive for Clint Brawner, one of the top car builders and racing mechanics of the time. Brawner was famous for picking the best talented race drivers in America. Mario Andretti wound up eventually taking Bowman’s seat in a Brawner race car and we all know how great his career turned out to be. Many people who knew their racing felt that Stan would win the Indy 500 someday racing for Clint Brawner.
RR - This is your first book. What were some of the highlights of this experience for you?
JL - There were so many, Rick. Speaking on the phone with Mario Andretti, my childhood hero, was a thrill that I certainly never expected. I spoke with his secretary and asked if could get just 5 minutes of his time to confirm the Bownam/Brawner relationship. We ended up talking for over a half-hour. He was so great. I believe he knew that he was talking with someone who loved the sport as much as he did, so I think that helped. He was very aware that had it not been for Bowman's tragic accident that
things could have been different for his career.
RR - How did Tony Stewart get involved with writing the foreword?
JL - Tony Stewart knew the history of that first USAC race at Eldora and Stan’s victory since he owns the track. And he went above and beyond what I expected in honoring Stan and his car owner, Harold Beck. He met with me and Stan Bowman's son Randy in Florence, Kentucky to discuss Stan's career. You could tell that Tony not only was interested in Bowman the driver but, he sincerely expressed his condolences to Randy on the loss of his father fifty years ago. Eldora Speedway, at Tony’s direction, honored Stan and his car owner Harold Beck on the 50th anniversary of Stan’s win in 2012. He also was gracious enough to contribute the foreword to this book.
RR - Recently Tony was involved in a horrific accident that resulted in the death of a driver. What are your thoughts concerning the accident and how do you think this will impact Tony's career?
JL - Obviously it's a terrible thing when someone loses their life like that. I know it is heart breaking for Tony. It was a very unfortunate situation for everyone that night. My thoughts go out to Kevin Ward’s family.
RR - So what's next for race fanatic, gear head, and author John Lucas?
JL - That's a great question Rick. Right now I'm just trying to get Bowman's story out there because there is a great lesson in it. You don't have to win the Indy 500 or the Super Bowl or the World Series to have a memorable story. Everyone that was involved in Stan's career was so thrilled to be a part of that special time. We all learned that the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the end result.
RR - John, thank you so much for your time today.
JL - Rick, it was a pleasure thank you.
To order the book, click here