DEFENDING WSOPM CHAMPION BOWMAN FEELING THE PRESSURE
Mike Bowman is feeling the pressure and admits he gets a little more freaked out with each passing day.
But that pressure has nothing to do with the fact he’s the defending winner of the DRAG ILLUSTRATED World Series of Pro Mod. In fact, Bowman gets a calming, excitable feeling thinking back to the moment that changed his life, recalling the exact moment with hearty exuberance when he crossed the finish line first to win $100,000 a year ago.
So, no, he doesn’t feel any pressure trying to live up to that a second time when the 2018 WSOPM takes place Aug. 10-11 at Bandimere Speedway. His current pressure is a far different kind and, in his mind, it’s a far more stressful one.
Bowman’s new turbocharged car is still getting completed at Jerry Bickel Race Cars after his crash at the NHRA Pro Mod race in Charlotte at the end of April, leaving the defending WSOPM champ without a car a month from the biggest and richest Pro Mod race in the history of the known universe.
“The only pressure is to get the car done,” Bowman said. “It’s a big deal to me that I’m there. If I make it there, I’m good. I’ve got two motors, transmissions, rear ends, all the parts and pieces it takes to do this. I’m prepared for it.”
Bowman doesn’t want to envision the alternative – the car not getting finished in time – essentially saying his year will be over if he can’t make the WSOPM on Thunder Mountain.
“If there’s one race I need to be at, it’s this one,” Bowman said. “I want to defend (the title) and do it again. This is important to me.”
Ultimately, Bowman feels confident he’ll have a car for Denver and, considering the conditions, already has a solid plan mapped out. He’s aiming to get the car back in time to test in St. Louis at the beginning of August, and then be at Bandimere Speedway the Monday of the race to work on the engine and make the necessary altitude adjustments.
That gives him Tuesday and Wednesday to test in the new car, which he believes is enough time to have him running well and consistent for a second straight year. The good news is Bowman has a wealth of strong passes from last year to lean on, and that could pay dividends in a hectic situation like this.
“I think I have learned a little bit to go quicker than I did before,” Bowman said. “I think we can roll right into it and do well, so I’m not as worried about it. I’ve seen cars from Jerry go straight right out the gate from his shop. I think we’ll be good to go.”
Last year’s run to the WSOPM winner’s circle was one of the stories of the year in the sport, with a script straight out of Hollywood. Bowman, a talented West Coast racer, made an eleventh-hour decision to throw his name into the hat, and the last-minute entrant ended up on top. Bowman was successful right off the bat on Thunder Mountain, making the first 5-second run for a Pro Mod car at the track during testing.
He complemented that with impressive consistency, taking out Pro Mod standouts en route to a victory that not many – perhaps Bowman included – expected.
“He came in at the last minute, out of left field and cleaned house,” Drag Illustrated Founder and Editorial Director Wes Buck said. “He really proved that consistency with these volatile cars wins races like this. It was the ultimate proving ground with all these big names associated, and it was neat to see someone like Mike seal the deal.
“He’s a guy that’s always excelled in those types of environments. He’s a great guy a gentleman racer and you can’t ask for much more in a champion.”
It’s a moment Bowman won’t ever forget, either, from the screams he let out in the car just past the finish line to the wide array of emotions he felt holding the massive, six-figure paycheck.
“It was the most incredible freaking feeling,” Bowman said. “I’ll never forget it. That memory will go on forever for me.”
In truth, Bowman simply went about his business a year ago, making one solid but not spectacular pass after another. The speed was impressive – almost every run Bowman made was more than 250 mph – but consistency has been the hallmark of every single one of his big wins in his career.
That includes the WSOPM and it’s also why Bowman isn’t feeling the heat of possibly having a target on his back heading into 2018.
“When you get into eliminations, ego gets in the way for a lot of guys and they’ll try a little more,” Bowman said. “You’ve just got to be there and be consistent, and I’ve always gone about it that way, just trying to make clean runs. I know everyone wants to beat me, but I don’t really feel a target on my back. I don’t think they’re threatened by me, but they know I can run fast. The blower cars have stepped up and everyone has stepped up. But you can’t let stuff like that bother you or it will affect your racing.”
Bowman expects a little more gamesmanship between the competitors in 2018, especially between the turbo and blower cars, but he’s ready for that, too.
He thinks runs in the 5.80s will be a distinct possibility as well, but that increased challenge would make a second straight WSOPM win taste even sweeter.
Bowman enjoyed every aspect of the inaugural race, calling it one of the most enjoyable experiences of his career, even before the victory. The level of difficulty will be even greater in 2018 with 32 elite Pro Mod drivers vying for $100,000, but even at those odds, Bowman will again take his chances.
“I know the likelihood is 1 in 32, but you don’t get that in Vegas, so I like those odds,” Bowman said. “We’ve got a pretty good tool as well, so we’ll see if we can do it again.”