RvW Racer Dave Bowman Rebuilding After Brutal Lights Out 7 Crash

Lights Out is the pinnacle of radial racing, the crème de la crème of small-tire mayhem. It is the stage where records are broken and legends are made, and a race that will turn an average drag racing fan into to a die-hard radial head. With all the glory, and over $55,000 on the line, racers are bound to push the limits of their 1/8-mile machines for a chance to be part of radial tire history.

20160218_211505One of the most unfortunate moments of this years’ event, however, that sent fans straight to their feet, was when the Corvette piloted by Kyle Huettel bounded across the center line during the second round of qualifying in the Radial vs. The World class. The crash on Feb. 18 sent his ZR1 crashing into the stunning twin turbocharged ’04 Mustang of Dave Bowman.

Bowman, a resident of Fremont, California, was first introduced to a DuckX Production’s class in 2008 after showing up in Bradenton, Florida to watch an Outlaw Radial Tire event. After witnessing the adolescence of the radial tire movement, he was hooked. A few years later, in 2010, Dave and his crew made the long haul from California to Georgia to compete in Donald Long’s Lights Out and No Mercy events.

“We wanted to see how we matched up against the best in the world,” Dave said. “I’m a small tire racer at heart, and the only place where this type of racing is center stage is at one of Donald’s races.”

After having a strong combination at Street Car Super Nationals in 2015, Dave felt he was ready to test his luck in the premier class, Radial vs. The World. Upon arriving at South Georgia Motorsports Park, testing confirmed that they hand’t brought a knife to a gunfight. The Dave’s Engine Machining-built 548 cubic inch Mustang was clawing at the racing surface and had potential to make the show. Sadly, this notion was short lived, as during the second round of qualifying, disaster struck.

“This round was the one I was most excited about going into, but it turned into the most disappointing moment of the weekend,” explained Dave. “As I let go of the transbrake the car left hard and the front end began to climb. Driving turbo cars for years without sissy sticks, I knew the nose of the car would continue coming up, so I aborted the run.

After setting the nose down, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the snarling Corvette pointed directly at his driver door. The only thought going through his mind at that moment was a simplistic “Oh, no!”

For what felt like 10 seconds all I could hear was the screech of the radial tires, as the fiberglass body disintegrated around me. -Dave Bowman

“The sudden impact instantly sent the Mustang up on the passenger-side wheels, the impact destroying nearly every composite body panel, as it careened across the track,” said Dave. “For what felt like 10 seconds all I could hear was the screech of the radial tires as the fiberglass body disintegrated around me. As the car slammed back down on all four tires, I remember getting on the brakes and coming to a complete stop … hand on the fire system lever the whole time, expecting to see a fire erupt from under the hood.” His first thought, after emerging from the wreckage, was to contact his wife and five year-old son to let them know he was safe.

“I remember looking over at Kyle’s car and waiting to see him exit, I was worried because the safety team surrounded the car, blocking my view. I exhaled a sigh of relief when I saw that he managed to get out of the car under his own power,” Dave stated.

Returning to the trailer and looking at the data logger info, he found that it had recorded a four g’s of lateral momentum during the crash, and the severity was beginning to sink in.

20160318_192901“I was devastated by the amount of damage my race car sustained — it looked like a bomb went off inside the trunk. The countless hours and money my team invested in the car, the sacrifices my family makes that lets me do what I love, and this was the outcome. It killed me,” Dave said.

Once back home, disassembly of the Mustang began. Despite the gruesome nature of the crash, a majority of the damage the Mustang suffered were exterior composite, rear-suspension, and rear axle components. The Mark Williams modular 9-inch took the brunt of the impact, and as a result, the entire center section is cracked and broken, along with a bent driver’s side axle. The 3-inch Mark Williams anti-roll bar was completely broken in two, and the Menscer rear shocks will have to be sent out for repair.

“So far, from what we have observed, the car is repairable, and I look forward to getting it track ready once again,” Dave said.

About the author

Justen Spencer

Justen is a Ford modular motor fanatic with seven years of professional drag racing experience, and multiple championship seasons in NMCA West and PSCA. Originally from Las Vegas, he is the proud owner of four Mustangs, one that sees regular track time. When not racing, Justen can be found in the garage maintaining his championship-winning car.
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