Bowling Continues To Impress With Another Racing Milestone
SOUTH BOSTON, VA – Matt Bowling has crammed a lot into his five years of stock car racing, most impressively two South Boston Speedway track championships.
But everything about Bowling has been impressive since he began racing go-karts when he was eight. There were state championships and national championships in go-karts and $10,000-to-win kart victories. There was that surprising Martinsville qualifying effort when he was a junior in high school and that first South Boston championship when he was a senior at Carlisle School in Martinsville.
But nothing has been bigger or more impressive than the 2015 South Boston Speedway Late Model Stock track championship.
“This was a big deal for us. We put a lot of time and effort in trying to win it,” Bowling said of his second South Boston title. “It’s not easy to win at South Boston and to win the track championship, and to have two under my belt is a big deal.”
Bowling posted five victories at South Boston this season, his most ever, but it was consistency that led him to a 31-point championship win over Lee Pulliam. Rarely did the Ridgeway driver finish out of the top five and he was never out of the top 10.
“I felt like I had to step up my game this year to win the championship,” said Bowling, who will receive his track championship trophy at South Boston’s awards banquet on January 9. “I felt like the whole team stepped it up. We all put a little more emphasis on winning the championship. To beat Lee you have to. We were fortunate enough for it to work out.”
Bowling first went racing when he was eight years old, strapping into a go-kart. He quickly became a terror on kart tracks in the region, rolling up win after win. “We won two $10,000 go-kart races, a lot of state championships. We won the Lucas Oil Go-Kart Shootout twice. We were very fortunate,” said Bowling.
By 2010 there was little else to win in the karting world and he made the jump to full-bodied stock cars. With the backing of his mom and dad, Tim and Diana, he moved into the Limited Division at South Boston.
“We went to South Boston because it was a Virginia track and everybody said that it was where we needed to go,” recalled Bowling. “Everybody said it was a tough track to get around and that was where we needed to go. I think I’m a better race-car driver because we came to South Boston.”
By that season’s end he made another gigantic jump up. “That same year we started Limiteds at South Boston, we got a Late Model motor and went over to Martinsville and made the (Late Model) race,” said Bowling. He didn’t just make the race, he made it through time trials, not the heat races. “It was a shock to me,” Bowling said of being among the 20 fastest cars at Martinsville that year.
He followed up with a fourth-place finish in the South Boston Late Model points in 2011 as a rookie and then nailed down the championship in 2012.
“That first year in Late Models, being so young, I feel like I was well-accepted. Everybody raced me with respect and I did the same,” said Bowling. “I tried not to do anything crazy or stupid and that gained respect. In 2012 I won the championship with a lot of consistent runs and didn’t tear up the race car.”
That consistency has been part of Bowling’s South Boston success. The rest of the equation is just plain old racing smarts.
“I feel like I know how to get around (South Boston). I know where I need to be to run well,” said Bowling, who had sponsorship help this year from Hopkins Lumber, AutosbyNelson, Bill Lemons, Sellers Racing, Banks Racing Engines, Hedgecock Cars and Bowling Logging. “It’s all about searching to find the setup to run well. You have to change with the race track and keep up with it throughout the summer and that’s tough. You’ve got to be near-perfect every week.”
Bowling’s many trophies are spread between his house, his parents’ house and his dad’s office, but the credit for all those trophies lies solidly with his parents.
“My mom and dad … I couldn’t do any of this without them,” said Bowling. “My dad has been behind me all the years. He’s still the big funder for this. Because of them I’ve been able to do what I love to do every weekend and I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that.”