A reader named John Matthew asks, Whatever became of Jack Bowsher? I used to watch him run stocks at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds dirt track. If I remember right, he just about always brought a car for A.J. Foyt to run. Those were good races, as I recall.
Well, John Matthew, you remember right, and you’ve hit on a subject close to my heart. Jack did indeed bring cars for A.J. Foyt to run in the USAC Stock Car series, and if he had two cars ready, he drove the other himself.
We lost Jack in April of 2006, and I still miss him. He was one of my favorite people when I was working with the ARCA Series. I did a Driven to the Past column about him in March of last year, and to expand on the answer to your question, maybe we ought to rehash some of that one.
I said he was the Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus of his day, all in one person. Jack was also the car owner, and there was a factory connection. He had some support from Ford, and most people assumed it came through the Holman-Moody combine. I suspect that the H-M support ended with delivery of the car, because Jack liked to build his own equipment, from the ground up.
Bowsher was second only to Harry Hyde among the mechanics I’ve known well, and he also knew how to drive that bus. Jack was the last Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) champion in 1963, and again champion in 1964 and 1965, after it was renamed the Auto Racing Club of America.
I believe his association with A.J. Foyt began through what happened at Daytona in 1966. Jack had won the ARCA race that week before pretty handily. Ramo Stott’s Plymouth was the only car on the same lap.
Jack stayed around for the next week, and was usually seen around the Junior Johnson garage and pit, where Bobby Isaac was driving the No. 27 and Foyt was in the No. 47. That was Junior’s first year as a car owner. Isaac was running well, but Foyt had problems. One car after another wouldn’t handle, or the engine would let go. He used up his own backup car, then Isaac’s backup car.
He was getting ready to climb in the Isaac backup for the first time and I was sitting on the pit wall talking to Bowsher.
I wondered out loud what was going to happen if they blew that one up or if it didn’t handle well enough to suit Super Tex. Foyt heard what I said, turned around, pointed at Jack, and said, “His is next.”
Well, that’s what happened.
They took off the No. 21 decals, ran the car through inspection, and applied the No. 47 decals, along with the Holly Farms Poultry decals on the quarter-panel. If my memory is correct, Jack mostly oversaw that operation. A.J. finished the second qualifying race in 11th place, but a blown head gasket eliminated him from the 500 in the first half of the race.
Incidentally, another friend of mine, Earl Balmer, then of Floyd Knobs, Ind., won that qualifying race in the Ray Fox No. 3 Dodge. Earl led only one lap, using the slingshot off the fourth turn to beat Jim Hurtubise in a Plymouth by less than a car length at the line.
The next I heard, Jack was fielding two cars in the USAC series, one for Foyt, one for himself. Foyt won the USAC Stock Car Championship in 1968 in one of Jack’s cars. As I said last year, what impressed me most about Jack was the way his cars were prepared. From the minute they rolled off the hauler, they were immaculate.
That wasn’t the norm in those days. Also, they were usually fast on the track at the start of practice.
There was always some grumbling in the ARCA days about how Jack had the factory help, but it was always my impression that he was working a little harder than everyone else.
I still miss him.
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