BAKERSFIELD TRACK TOWER BURNS; TRACK OWNER VOWS MARCH MEET WILL HAPPEN
Just like the mythical Phoenix, Blake Bowser says Auto Club Famoso Raceway will rise again from the ashes. On the early morning hours of January 6, fire crews from the area arrived at the facility at 3:30 AM, to find parts of the control tower engulfed in flames.
Bowser, the operator of the legendary facility located outside of Bakersfield, Ca., said he believes an electrical issue is likely to blame for the cause of the fire.
"The VIP tower, the storage building, and that area burned to the ground," explained Bowser in an exclusive interview with CompetitionPlus.com. "It started in the back, where our track equipment is stored. In another half-hour, it would have taken out the new tower. It got so hot that it nearly ignited the roofline."
Bowser said he arrived at the facility by 5:30 AM after emergency crews had already extinguished the fire.
"Someone just happened to be driving by and saw the fire," Bowser said. "The interesting part is they were on Hwy 99, miles from the track and saw it. When they turned off the highway, it was evident what was burning."
Bowser said it's not the most devastating situation he's ever faced since he and his family took over, but it's definitely a "punch in the gut."
"Someone losing their life at the track will always be the worst because what we have here can be rebuilt," Bowser said. "It's the worst physical damage to property we've had for sure."
Bowser said he and his team will begin the arduous process of rebuilding the burned portion of the facility and said he expects to be ready for the March Meet. While this is a doable goal, Bowser said they definitely have their work cut out for them.
"Well I can tell you there will be an ugly spot next to the tower where the VIP tower once was," said Bowser. "We will get it all cleaned up. But the challenge we face is the timing system was wired into the side of the tower which burned, and transfer over to the new tower. Now that all has to be reinstalled. Our back up timing equipment was burned up."
Bowser said some of the items were insured, but for now, he and the team are jumping directly into the rebuild and will sort out the insurance later.
"I have to go through and take inventory of what is what," Bowser confirmed. "Some stuff is, and some isn't. Right now I will pull out of my pocket to get back up and running."
Bowser said he has already received calls from fellow track operators offering use of equipment until we get back up and running.
"If we hadn't saved the other tower, I don't know how we could have had a chance to race in March," he admitted. "We have already started dragging stuff out of here. We will be ready for the March Meet."