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After three years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Jason Bowles decided it was time to reach new heights.
He won the West Series championship in 2009 and was the West Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2007. He won nine races in 39 career starts in the West Series.
He figured there was no place to go but down if he stayed in the West Series another year. Bowles, a driver from Ontario who drove the No. 6 Sunrise Ford for Bob Bruncati to the West Series championship last year, left the West Coast for North Carolina with no regular ride and no concrete plans for the 2010 season.
“That was my third year in the West Series,” Bowles said. “Winning the championship, you have to use that momentum. If you go back and don’t win then it doesn’t look good for you. I’m getting a little bit older, so I have to use the momentum. I’ve got to make something happen now.”
With a sense of urgency and a championship on his resume, Bowles was determined to move up the ranks of NASCAR. But to get noticed, a driver has to race.
“Running a fourth year in the West Series, it wasn’t an option really,” Bowles said. “Running some races I think is going to be good, but I need to focus on some other things that I need to try and work on as well.
Part of Bowles’ plan was to enter the West Series Jimmie Johnson Foundation 100 at Phoenix International Raceway on Thursday. It was the second race of the West Series season, but it will be the 2010 West Series debut for Bowles.
He drove the No. 31 Chevrolet for the Golden Gate Racing Team to a runner-up finish to race winner Eric Holmes.
He teamed with Blake Koch, a developmental driver for Richard Childress Racing.
“We are honored to have Jason and the GGRT/RCR No. 31 car at Phoenix and feel Jason can keep the No. 31 up front for exposure on our institute for pediatric trauma care for children,” Richard Childress said. “We need to bring an awareness to the public and try and get as much support as we can.”
Jeff Offenbach, the owner of the Golden Gate Racing Team, said after he and Childress watched Bowles win the West Series races at Phoenix and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma last year, they wanted to keep him in their system.
“Richard and I talked over the winter,” Offenbach said. “We decided, let’s keep Jason close to our stalls. He doesn’t want Jason to get too far out of his sight.”
Bowles won the West Series race at Phoenix last year in April, one of three races he won in 2009. He also posted 10 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 West Series races last year.
Bowles has been making the rounds in NASCAR. In November, he qualified for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Phoenix International Raceway. Driving a car for Specialty Racing, he ended up in 31st place after getting collected in an accident.
“We were running OK. A couple cars wrecked in front of us,” Bowles said. “There was just nowhere to go. It was just one of those deals that was out of our control. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was good for us, experience, hopefully we can build on that, turn it into some more.”
He went to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Nationwide race on March 20, but didn’t qualify.
He raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina on March 27. Much like the Nationwide Series race in Phoenix, Bowles was racing well and looking at a decent finish when he crashed near the end.
“We qualified good and we were running pretty good,” Bowles said. “Halfway through, we had a shock problem. We kind of rode around in seventh or eighth trying to do the best we could with the issue we were having. We just got collected in a wreck close to the end.”
He will be driving an entry for RAB Racing in Friday’s Nationwide Series race at Phoenix. Bowles said he doesn’t have any concrete plans beyond the Phoenix races, but he is determined to keep racing.
“Someone with no money like myself, you have to take every opportunity you can get,” Bowles said. “There’s not a lot of sponsorship dollars out there right now. There’s not a lot of opportunities. Whenever I get a chance, I have race.”
Go to www.haddockinthepaddock.com for more on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East, plus NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model racing from Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Follow him on Twitter @thaddock