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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Bowling was Virginia’s “super sophomore” last season in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
The second-year driver won the NASCAR Late Model track championship at South Boston (Va.) Speedway by 18 points over the series’ 2005 national champion Peyton Sellers. In fact, his race car was fielded from Sellers’ Danville, Va., shop with Sellers as a teammate, and Sellers’ brother H.C. was his crew chief.
“We worked together as a team and helped each other,” Bowling said. “They were great to work with.”
Bowling has a different plan of attack in mind for 2013. He amicably parted with the Sellers team in search of new experiences. The thought is to race more and at different tracks to broaden his experience.
“We know we’ll be racing in at least six special events at Motor Mile this year,” Bowling said. “Virginia is a tough state competition-wise, and we’re going to have to get a lot of wins. Finishing fourth in (state) points in 2012 was pretty good. We want to improve on that.”
Bowling’s record in Virginia last year showed 20 starts with one win, 14 top fives and 20 top 10s. He placed fourth in the state point race while making starts at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. It was at Langley where he took the biggest win of his young career in July. He took the checkered flag in the Hampton Heat 200 against an all-star field. Bowling took the lead on Lap 148 and drove on for the win. Three-time defending track champion C.E. Falk III placed second followed by brother Wes Falk.
Bowling ended up with a 16th-place finish in the national points race. He supplemented his Virginia efforts by also competing at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway and Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. Overall in 37 outings he recorded two wins, 24 top fives and 34 top 10s.
A team led by crew chief Marcus Richmond with assistance from Timothy Peters fielded Bowling’s car for the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October. He started sixth and led about 50 laps in the event until four-time national champion Philip Morris took command late in the race and drove to Victory Lane. Bowling said his car had steering issues that foiled his run, but toughed it out for a seventh-place finish. Peters, who finished second in the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings, was a standout in Virginia and North Carolina late model racing earlier in his career.
Bowling began his racing career in go-karts as a fourth grader. He moved up to the Limited Sportsman division in 2010 and graduated to late models in 2011.
Bowling was honored in December for his track championship during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 counted toward their states and national point totals, and the champions are decided on overall point total. Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their total would increase incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.