It was the biggest win of Matt Bowling’s career. It’s easy to see why. He ran against NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and won. A year later, his 2014 Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown win still reigns supreme in Bowling’s list of racing accomplishments.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Bowling told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It was just unbelievable, really. We had a good car all night, but to make it all come together and win that race was a dream come true.”
Now, Bowling has to defend that title on Thursday night at South Boston Speedway (VA). It’ll be tough to do, considering drivers like Chase Elliott (2014 NASCAR XFinity Series champion and former Snowball Derby winner), David Ragan, Timothy Peters, Lee Pulliam (two-time NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion) and more are entered for the race.
But then again, winning this race just once was a tall task. Racing against, and beating, the group of drivers that Bowling went up against was an impressive feat.
“You’ve got your best Late Model drivers there, and you’ve got the guys that you grew up watching on TV that you’ve always dreamed of racing against,” said Bowling. “Last year it was Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. To even race against them was an honor, but to win, that’s something that you never forget. It was definitely a neat experience and definitely the biggest win of my career.”
When looking at Bowling’s stat line for this race, the win clearly jumps out, but one thing that’s interesting is Bowling’s lack of success in his first two attempts at the Showdown.
The Showdown was held at Richmond International Raceway (VA) from 2011-2013, and Bowling struggled in his two attempts at the 3/4-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track. In 2013 he finished 18th, his best finish at Richmond, and the year before that he finished 25th. In both races he started 33rd or worse.
“Richmond was definitely more in the Cup guys favor there.” Bowling said. “They’ve got way more laps there than we do.”
In 2014 the race was moved to South Boston, a place that Bowling knows well. He’s scored seven wins at the track in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition and won the track championship there in 2012.
When Bowling heard that the race was being moved to South Boston, he knew that he was going to have a much better chance at winning and he proved that.
“That was my initial thought. We actually have a chance now,” Bowling said with a laugh. “When they moved it to South Boston, a place we’ve won a track championship at and have won a lot of races at, it definitely fell back towards our favor and for all the Late Model guys there. It definitely made the race more competitive.”
Bowling has already been preparing to repeat his performance from last year. Now that he has one trophy from this race he wants to add another.
“We’ve done it once and now we’ve got to try to back it up and do it again,” he said. “It’s been my main focus all year to do it again. We’ve been running South Boston a lot to do some preparing and gathering notes to make sure we’ve got everything figured out in order to do it again.”
When asked what it would mean to him if he does do it again, Bowling seemed to struggle a bit to find the right words, so he decided to joke around a little bit.
“It would hopefully let everybody know that I can actually drive a little bit.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo