by Ryan Isley
When the Southeast Super Trucks Series returns to the track on March 26 at Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina, Northeast Ohio’s Ricky Bowers will be there. The 21-year-old will enter his second season in the series for Leicht Motorsports in the No. 61 truck.
To read about how Bowers got his start in racing, you can check out the piece from last season on Live Full Throttle, Northeast Ohio’s Ricky Bowers Chasing His NASCAR Dream.
Strong Finish to 2015
Bowers will be taking plenty of positive momentum into the 2016 season after finishing strong in 2015. Following a stretch of that saw Bowers finish 10th or worse in four out of five races, the Mentor, Ohio native notched two straight fourth place finishes to end the season. He also picked up his first pole of the season in the final race at Tri-County.
With eight top-10s and four top-5s in 12 races, Bowers took home the 2015 Southeast Super Trucks Series Rookie of the Year Award and also finished fifth in the series standings. These were two of the awards he was presented with at the Southeast Super Trucks Series Awards banquet in Asheville, North Carolina in late January.
“At the beginning of the season I told my family, my friends and my team that my goal was to win rookie of the year and finish top-5 in points, and we did just that,” Bowers said. “That solidified 2015 and made it a great season as we had accomplished our goals.”
One award that Bowers was not expecting, however, was the OnPitroad.com Professionalism Award, which is an award that was created by the site. In its first season, the award was designed to go to the driver with who came across as pleasant to talk to during interviews and also the driver who could be seen as the most marketable.
“I had no clue about it, it was really cool,” Bowers said. “As a driver, you strive to be someone that people like to talk to and be most marketable for sponsors.”
When the Southeast Super Trucks Series season ended, Bowers had one more race to run. With just a few weeks to prepare, Bowers and the No. 61 headed to Myrtle Beach Speedway for the “UNOH 400 presented by the Crown Reef.” The track at Myrtle Beach was a new experience for Bowers, as it was the longest track he has raced on The track surface presented aother challenge for Bowers, as it had a grainy texture that is known for tearing up tires.
The unfamiliarity with the track led to qualifying 12th out of 25 trucks for the 100-lap race. With the help of Eugene Leicht’s strategy, Bowers was able to save his tires and once he got the directive from Leicht to go all out with about 20 laps remaining, he was able to bring home a sixth place finish.
“The UNOH 400 was a big race,” Bowers said. “To be able to finish sixth out of 25 in my first try, that was a good momentum builder for us as well.”
The Financial Burden of Racing
While Bowers has shown his talent on the track, the racing on the track is only one part of his development and advancement as a driver. The sport of racing is very costly, and the burden of finding money and sponsorship is one that is all too often felt by drivers at all levels.
There are some drivers that see racing as a hobby but Bowers sees it as a career. Racing is what he wants to do for a living, but to be able to move from level to level, it takes the financial help of sponsors. He has associate sponsors such as Sikk Shades by Eddie Bauer on board, but knows he will need more if he hopes to continue his climb through the ranks.
“It’s very difficult. You have to get people to hop on board with what you are trying to do,” Bowers said. “We are going year to year at this point. Racing is really expensive, and we have to be realistic with our expectations. We have been trying to secure local sponsors, but we need to find more sponsors to take us to the next level.”
An issue that drivers like Bowers face is that sponsors will sometimes look at them and not be interested because they are not in one of NASCAR’s top series. But one good thing about the Southeast Super Trucks Series is that the trucks travel to multiple states in the southeast to compete. With races in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, the Southeast Super Trucks Series gives teams a chance to gain exposure in different areas.
“In the more local series such as the trucks, we go to four different states and we can still get exposure,” Bowers said. “It’s a lot more bang for your buck. We get exposure to several states in the southeast without spending nearly the amount of money as the top NASCAR series.”
Bowers knows at an early age that a good financial situation goes hand in hand with the on track success if he wants to achieve his ultimate goal of being a NASCAR driver. He also knows that it isn’t going to be easy, as there have been many good drivers who have fallen by the wayside in pursuit of the dream.
“The sad truth is a high percentage of great drivers don’t make it,” Bowers said. “The only way to do that is to have a strong support system, which I have, and to have good financial backing, which I am puruing.”
Looking Ahead to 2016
As Bowers heads into the 2016 season, he does so as a more confident driver. While he entered 2015 with everything literally being brand new to him, from the truck to the tracks to his team, he will go into 2016 with the experience behind the wheel of the truck with his same crew and has now raced on the tracks he will see once again in the series.
“I have a lot of confidence going into 2016,” Bowers said. “I think the pole at Tri-County along with the rookie of the year solidified the 2015 season and has me ready for 2016.”
That pole at Tri-County was a big confidence booster for Bowers because his mediocre qualifying during the summer months was something that plagued him throughout his rookie season in the series. Because Bowers had never driven trucks before last season, he had to learn a completely new type of qualifying than he had one in the past.
“It was definitely over time that I got more comfortable with qualifying,” Bowers said. “I learned to trust the truck more. You can drive really deep into the corner and I wasn’t used to that with anything else I have ever driven. There are no doubts heading into 2016 with qualifying.”
While the 2015 season was about trying to win the rookie of the year award and finish in the top-5 in points, Bowers is looking to improve on that in 2016. After a couple of close calls last season, Bowers has victory lane in mind this season.
“There were a couple races last year we should have probably been in victory lane, but things didn’t click 100%,” Bowers said. “Now that I know more about trucks and the competition, we aren’t far away from a win.”
Despite a good 2015 and a positive outlook for 2016, Bowers knows that he can’t let up even for one moment if he wants to make a career out of racing. He knows that any slip up can be the one that costs him the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I am always focused on my goal,” Bowers said. “I have gotten to the point where I can both have fun with the sport I love, as well as give 110% towards my goals on and off the track. That balance is very important. You can’t lose focus on the big picture.”
The focus will definitely be on Bowers this season, possibly more than ever. With another successful season in the Southeast Super Truck Series, his ascension in his racing career may be accelerated. If it is, you can rest assured he will be ready for it, smiling the entire time.