Mike Fowler of Gorham, Maine scored a heartwarming victory in memory of his brother, Jason Fowler, at the conclusion of the 50-lap Pro Series feature at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine Saturday night. Fowler, who is labeled as a rookie in the division this season, got back behind the wheel for the 2014 season in the No. 66 Super Late Model owned by his dad, long-time car owner Dickie Fowler.
He had come “so close” to winning in honor of his brother on many occasions this season. Finally, everything came together Saturday night and the 30-year-old racer was able to score his first victory at the track as a driver since the 2003 season. In a way, he was also able to bring his brother back to victory lane at the famed 1/3-mile oval.
“It was a little bit mentally challenging to overcome, but we never gave up and figured one of these nights we would get a win and we finally did the other night,” Fowler told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It was pretty rewarding. It was definitely a good win to get for my brother.
“It was kind of challenging to overcome that first win that I wanted to get so bad for my brother as a driver. I’ve worn his fire suit all year just to feel a little bit more comfortable. I figured it’d be nice to get him back to victory lane with me and that was a good way to do it.”
Growing up, Fowler spent his childhood at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway with his dad and his older brother Jason. The younger Fowler would head to the Scarborough, Maine track every Saturday night to help out his dad and cheer on his brother as they competed against some of the best competition in the Northeast.
Mike, who was three years younger than his brother, looked up to Jason when the two were starting their own racing careers. As the two grew older, and both took a step back from racing to help work on their dad’s car – driven by “The Maine Racing Legend” Mike Rowe – the two brothers became even closer as they worked together as crew members.
“My dad owned racecars for 30 years and has won 12 or 13 championships at Beech Ridge, so we grew up around Beech Ridge and the people there are like a second family,” said Fowler. “We were there every Saturday night and Friday nights when we were racing go-karts.
“Jason raced a lot when I was younger and I always looked up to him as a race car driver. He kind of took a step back from the driver’s seat, too, so we worked with Mike Rowe as crew members and were able to really become close doing that.”
On November 10, 2012, Jason Fowler’s life came to a tragic end in a crash on Burnham Road in the family’s hometown of Gorham, Maine. The news of Fowler’s death shook the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway racing community, as he was remembered as a popular, fun to be around, dear friend that would always put a smile on someone’s face.
At the start of the 2013 racing season, Dickie Fowler would ask Mike Rowe to join the team for a part-time schedule as a tribute to Jason. Rowe agreed and Mike Fowler served as crew chief.
Part-time ended up morphing into full-time after Rowe won the first race of the season and the team picked up right where they had previously left off. At the age of 63, Rowe would go on to score an emotional Maine NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship that season with Mike Fowler calling the shots.
“I had kind of been out of the scheme since 2008 and when the opportunity came up with Mike to crew chief him I figured that there isn’t a better racecar driver out there that would be driving for us,” Fowler said. “I figured he wasn’t getting any younger and I still had plenty of life in me, so I took a few years off and helped him as much as I could.”
Entering the 2014 season, Rowe decided to return to running the PASS North schedule full-time and that created an opening in the driver’s seat of Dickie Fowler’s Pro Series ride. That’s when the Fowlers made the decision that Mike would fill the driver’s seat as a rookie in the track’s premier division.
Until Saturday, despite showing speed all year long, Fowler couldn’t seem to put everything together in order to score his first victory of the year. Two weeks ago, he led with four laps to go before falling back on a late race restart. Just one week ago, he seemed to be in command once again before tangling with Corey Bubar on the front stretch while battling for the lead on a restart.
“I feel like we’ve had the fastest car for like the last three weeks,” said Fowler. “We just could never really seal the deal. They use to call me Kyle Busch, Jr. because I could run fast laps, but I could never finish races. It’s been an up and down kind of year. It felt good to get a win for my team and all the fans supporting me.”
Fowler’s win was a very popular one among those in the Maine racing community. Following his win that night, notes of congratulations on social media were flying in from Maine to North Carolina and beyond as the news spread about his first win in honor of his brother.
In a phone interview with Speed51.com on Monday afternoon, Fowler said that he was overwhelmed with all of the support he had received since his win on Saturday evening.
“It was pretty gratifying to have all that support,” said Fowler. “It kind of was a storybook ending, but I just went out there and raced while trying to do the best I could for my team and sponsors (Main Street Auto, A&L Landscaping, and Maine Aviation). If we got a win, I knew that would be what the fans would be talking about.
“Now I can just focus on winning some more races now that I’ve got the first one out of the way.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: Brandon_Paul51
-Featured Photo Credit: Fowler Family Photo