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Michael Bowles hoping to continue the magic in 2022

By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass. 

ITALY, Texas — It's always been difficult to carry the success of one season into the next, yet many try valiantly year after year. Speed and consistency are the hallmarks of a great program, but with all of the variables in short track auto racing - it just isn't easy to put it all together two years in a row.

For 42-year-old Factory Stock pilot Michael Bowles, the 2021 season was one to cherish. In 43 starts, Bowles earned 12 wins, 34 top-five and an amazing 41 top-10 finishes. This 23-year veteran of the ovals is up around 106 career feature wins now, and in 2022 – he'll be out there gunning for more.

“I think the biggest factor in last year's success was the new car,” Bowles said. “This car really turned us around, it's just a lot easier to drive. “I had taken about eight years off from racing while my kids grew up. When I came back, it was a struggle. I was way behind and had a lot of catching up to do. I guess last year, we got caught up.”

While most teams around the beautiful Lone Star State of Texas dug into chassis updates, a new engine or other in-depth work this winter, Bowles says his Hot Rod didn't need a whole lot of effort for 2022.

“We really haven't done much other than put a new body on it,” he explained. “It's an Enslin chassis built by Keith Enslin, and I really like it. I went to school with Keith and want to support him. I'm very impressed with his work, and will be striving to put his brand back in Victory Lane again this season.”

Bowles has driven just about every type of race car under the sun during his stellar 23-year career. There have been plenty of highlights along the way.

“I competed in a lot of classes over the years, from the old Bomber days, to Street Stocks, where I had a great deal of success. I've also driven in Modifieds and Sport Mods, so it's been quite a ride. In 2020, I was able to record my 100th feature win, which was pretty exciting.

“I do this because it's a family thing, they all love it and we all go racing together. That's why we do it.”

In the past two or three years, the level of competition in Factory Stock has risen across the state. Tons of former open-wheel veterans are gravitating to the division now, wanting in on the big purses and all of that media attention. Bowles says he expects that trend to continue this year.

“It keeps getting more and more competitive every year, no question,” he said. “Everybody has stepped up their programs, worked on their chassis setups and fine-tuned their shock packages to the point where we're all pretty equal now. You don't see one guy drive off into the sunset much any more.

“There are still racers who rise above most of us, guys like Dalton Faulkner, for example. He's fun to watch and has done big things driving his own equipment. But for the most part, everybody is pretty tight together. It will be tough again this year to win races, but we're going to get after it once again.”

Along with his years of experience, fabulous Enslin Factory Stock machine and great setup, Bowles also has several key people in his corner who keep his program running smoothly.

“I tell you what, I have a lot of help at the shop, and at the track,” he said without hesitation. “That makes it so much easier. I need to thank my wife, Tracey Bowles; Cody Dixon, Mason Owen, Chris Watson, Pedro Salazar, Cameron Cook, Toby Grissom, Nate Bowles, Devon Bowles, Peyton Bowles, Paige Bowles, Kaylie Bowles, Huntleigh and Cayson. I couldn't do this without all of their support.”

Along with a big, dedicated family and some devoted frineds, Bowles also has some fine marketing partners who make his program so steady and competitive week-in and week-out.

“I'm blessed to have several great companies on board,” he said. “I want to thank Wicked Fast Transmission, Williams Plumbing, Southern Layne, Furniture Junkie, CRS Suspension, 7mk Trucking, 23w Construction, Enslin Chassis, Dirt Defender, MD Bowles Construction and Whiterock Trophy Ranch. We couldn't run so many races or contend for wins without their valued support.”

Bowles will kick off his 2022 campaign this weekend at Big O Speedway in Ennis. The track has two days of racing slated, beginning with Saturday's 'Warm Her Up' program featuring Super Late Models, Modifieds, Factory Stocks, Eco Mods, Thunder Cars and FWD 4-Cylinders.

“I will be there this weekend and ready to go,” Bowles concluded. “I think we have about as good a chance to win as anybody. I think we should be fast and pretty competitive. I'm sure there will be some heavy hitters there, but as long as the car holds up, we should be right there with them.”

You can watch all of the action from Saturday's Warm Her Up program at Big O Speedway (along with Sunday's Leftover Nationals show) with a subscription to SpeedPass at RaceOnTexas.com. In 2021, SpeedPass subscribers enjoyed over 120 Live races from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

This year, the Live racing will be wall-to-wall with more multi-cam shows and top-notch graphics. The sport of short track racing is more accessible than ever before. Let SpeedPass be your choice in 2022.   

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