360 Fireworks Party

Thursday, April 19, 2012


by Michael Monks 
Stan Bowman
(Image via)
One of the early greats of auto racing was a man known as the Covington Comet. Stan Bowman was raised at 715 Greenup Street in Covington and began his racing career under owner George Conner who along with his father operated a car dealership where Randolph Park is now located in the Eastside neighborhood. Bowman's fast rise to the heights of racing was cut short during a 1962 race in Terre Haute, Indiana in which a violent crash claimed his life at the age of 32. On Saturday the Covington Comet will be remembered at Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio, the site of his most famous victory just two months before his death. 
"It was a golden era of race car drivers," said Mario Andretti in a piece on Bowman by John Lucas for Northern Kentucky Heritage. Andretti is often cited as the best driver of all time and his early success at the Indianapolis 500 could be directly linked to Bowman's death. One of the big names of racing in the era was Clint Brawner who controlled the operation of the Dean Van Lines racing organization and was known as a top mechanic and outstanding scout of young talent. From Northern Kentucky Heritage:
Clint Brawner laters recalled in 1962, "I was looking for a rare, brainy driver. One of them was Stan Bowman. Bowman had never raced a big Indy car but at the time was going great guns racing spring cars." Brawner took particular notice that Stan had won the season opening race at Eldora in underpowered 220 cubic inch Offy over the bigger Chevy engine of Hurtubise's car. Brawner also heard about a race in New Bremen, Ohio where Stan, as Brawner stated, "He even ran Parnelli Jones into the ground, forcing Parnelli to blow out a tire trying to keep up with him." 
Brawner hired Bowman who by then was able to set his sights on the coveted Indianapolis 500. But following the tragic race in Terre Haute, Brawner hired driver Donald Davis who was also killed later in 1962 in a similar racing crash. A second new hire, Chuck Hulse, suffered a serious eye injury in a race. It was after that injury that Brawner was led to hire Andretti:
Still searching for a driver, he went on to hire a new driver  in the (United States Auto Club) sprint car division from Pennsylvania. His name was Mario Andretti, who would become one of racing's icons. Mario Andretti said, "In those days you waited around in your helmet because you never knew when an opportunity would come up. It was a dangerous business. I was a successor to Stan Bowman, Donald Davis, and Chuck Hulse, and I was lucky to survive. Others were not so lucky." 
It could have been Covington's own Stan Bowman racing in the 1963 Indy 500, won by the very Parnelli Jones that the Covington Comet embarrassed previously in a race that helped to inspire Brawner to hire the 32-year old rookie. The first USAC race at Eldora would be won by Bowman just weeks before his tragic death and on Saturday the track commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Bowman's victory with remarks by Northern Kentucky historian John Lucas, as well as the driver's son, Randy Bowman, and Diane Beck Lane, whose father owned the car that Bowman rode to victory. 

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