Stan Bowman was arguably the greatest race car driver to never be in the Indy 500. This was a man who won the first U.S.A.C. race at Tony Stewart’s ElDora Speedway. Stan competed and won against the likes of AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, and Jim Hurtobuise. Dirt racing Hall of Fame member Bill Teegarden said it best ” There is no doubt that if Stan had made it to the Indy 500, he would have won it”.
Bowman’s racing career began by dominating the local racing scene near Indiana. He consistently won races and set records at Lawrenceburg speedway in Indiana. His local success captured the attention of Harold Beck who owned a U.S.A.C. sprint car. U.S.A.C stood for the United States Auto Club and was the minor leagues of Indy Car racing. If you wanted to race in the Indy 500, you had to be successful in USAC. The Beck Construction car that Stan would go on to drive would enter the season with several disadvantages. First, the Offenhauser engine had about half the horsepower as the Chevy engines and could barely keep up on normal circumstances. Second, Beck Construction racing team did not have the money that the Parnelli Jones and AJ Foyts had. What Stan lacked in resources, he made up for in pure strength and determination. When asked how he wanted the car set up, Bowman replied ” Set it up anyway you want to and I’ll drive it”. He entered into the fray as an unknown but soon emerged as a top contender.
Stan competed in five USAC races and finished in the top five in all but one race. His biggest accomplishment was holding off AJ Foyt and Parnelli Jones to win the first ever USAC race at EL Dora in 1962. His success caught the eye of Clint Brawner who had a habit of creating championship drivers. Brawner was a celebrated mechanic in what would be now known as the Indy Racing League. It was common knowledge that if Clint Brawner wanted you to drive for his team, then you had more than a reasonable chance of winning an Indy 500.
Stan was signed to race with the Dean Van Lines racing team and had even taken some practice laps at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All signs pointed to the Indy 500 until tragedy intervened. While taking warm-up laps before a lower level race, the axle on Stan’s car broke. This caused the car to be propelled out of the race track and resulted in the untimely death of Stan Bowman. It is hard to say how this legend would have fared in his career but if it’s any indicator, the person hired to replace Stan Bowman……was Mario Andretti.
1. The Bravest of them All , Lucas 2012 article