When Burt Myers won the Fan’s Challenge at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) in 2016, he took home $6,000 and was happier than if he’d won a championship because it was a bigger payday than a championship. This Saturday night, the Fan’s Challenge bonus is worth twice as much. That’s right, $12,000 is on the line during the 100-lap Modified feature at the Madhouse.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bowman Gray’s Fan’s Challenge, it’s pretty simple. During the 100-lap races, the top four after qualifying can choose to start at the rear of the field and take the challenge, or go to the redraw and risk drawing at the back of the field anyway without the bonus eligibility. If a driver chooses to start in the rear and races back into the top four, they win the money. If multiple drivers pull it off, they split the money.
Normally the bonus is $3,000, but if nobody wins then the money rolls over to the next 100-lap race. Danny Bohn was in a position to win $9,000 the last time the bonus was on the line, but he was bumped out of the top four late in the race. That’s how we’ve gotten to this point with $12,000 up for grabs.
With so much money on the line, the interest of many drivers has been piqued, including some that normally don’t take the Challenge, like 10-time champion and all-time victory leader, Tim Brown.
“It’s just been a bad year. I could use the money to help pay for all of the crash damage we’ve spent this year,” said Brown with a laugh. “We don’t do this for the money but it’s always nice to have an opportunity to win that kind of money. So if the car is good in practice and we qualify in the top four, it’s possible.”
Usually, Brown announces that he is passing on the challenge to a chorus of boos from most of the fans at the Stadium, with cheers mixed in from his fans. But usually, Brown is still fighting for the championship, which he said means more to him and his sponsors than bonus money. But now that he’s trailing Myers by 60 points, Brown said he feels like he’s out of the running for an 11th title.
“To me, three thousand dollars isn’t enough money to risk starting in the rear and getting caught up in a crash, especially if you’re racing for points,” Brown told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’d rather win the points. That’s what my sponsors want, that’s what I want and that’s what my fans want. So this is different. My situation now is different than it’s been in the past. We have no chance at the championship even though we’re second in the points. Burt’s just had a flawless two seasons. He’s just got us buried. It is on our radar to talk about and view a little bit differently because we don’t have a shot in the points, and it is twelve thousand dollars at stake.”
Myers is a past winner of the Fan’s Challenge, the defending track champion, and the current points leader. He’s gambled in the past, but is he willing to do it now with an eighth track championship on the line?
“Honestly, I’ll tell you just like I tell everybody else that asks. I don’t really make a decision until I get there and weigh out my options,” said Myers. “It’s a good chance that I may try it, but it’s depending on if I make the top four, depending on who the rest of the top four is, depending on how many cars there are and how how the track is. There’s just so many variables there. Like I said, I know that’s not the answer the media is looking for, but I don’t have a definite answer.”
Even though Brown, who is second in points, 60 markers back of Myers, said he thinks that Myers has the title locked up, Myers doesn’t think that and that’s part of the reason why he’s hesitant to commit to the Fan’s Challenge.
“That’s a pretty good lead but at Bowman Gray anything is possible,” explained Myers. “People keep saying I have it won, but that’s if nothing crazy happens. But guess what? Crazy things happen at Bowman Gray.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com