JHC features "The Legend of Stan Bowman" tomorrow afternoon

Little York area, childhood playmates, and professional race car drivers, Stan Bowman and Roy Robbins, circa 1961.

Stan Bowman, USAC driver, at the Salem Speedway 1962

Stan Bowman at the famed Eldora Speedway

Stan Bowman is considered one of the greatest racing talents to come out of Washington County. You can learn more about this Gibson Township native through a screening of "The Legend of Stan Bowman," on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m., in the basement of the Stevens Museum.

This one-hour film, over the meteoric rise and tragic demise of race car driver, Stanley Bowman, features Tony Stewart, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and many others.  It will be presented by, John Lucas, (former corporate lawyer and professor of history at Northern Kentucky University), who authored the book, “The Bravest of Them All - The Legend of Stan Bowman” in 2014.

Born in Kentucky, Stanley’s parents moved to Washington County, in the early 1930s, where Stan got his education in the old one-room schoolhouse at Pumpkin Center, before attending the Little York High School.  While growing up here, Stan and several other local boys developed a great passion for auto racing and cut their teeth mimicking their racing heroes on the dirt and gravel backroads of Gibson Township, in souped-up Model Ts. These friendly, fearless competitions most generally came down to Stan and his best friend, fellow future racer, Roy Robbins, Jr.

With the explosion of racing facilities being constructed after World War II, it wasn’t long before these ‘Gibson boys’ started trying their luck in official races. After incessant begging, it would be his friend, Roy, who gave Stan the opportunity to drive in his first race at the Jeffersonville Sportsdrome, in the late 1940s.  With that, Stan was immediately addicted and in short order had his own race car, which he began barnstorming, along with his good friend Roy, all over southern Indiana, southwest Ohio and north-central Kentucky.

After serving in the Korean War, Stan drove in numerous different classes of race cars, but by the late 1950s he had settled into the open-wheel ranks of the Modified or Outlaw Sprints.  He had become a seasoned driver and a regular at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, who was routinely battling with other local favorites Roy Robbins Jr. and Jim “Tex” McElreath, for the track championships.  In 1961 when the USAC Sprints debuted at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, those three local drivers joined in the field of future racing legends, who were regulars on the USAC circuit, to test their mettle. 

Stanley’s abilities to wheel a car around a slick high-banked oval caught the attention of USAC car owner Harold Beck’s son, Sonny, of Dayton, Ohio.  The Becks had never won a feature sprint event in the series and when their seat opened up in 1962, Sonny went to his dad, to plead his case for hiring Stan Bowman.  

Stanley, now 32 years of age, realized this might be his last chance at achieving his childhood dreams of racing in the Indy 500, and agreed to sign on with the Beck’s for the 1962 USAC Sprint season.  His sensational debut occurred in April, at the famous Eldora Speedway, in Rossburg, Ohio, which coincidentally was the first time for the USAC series to run at the renowned facility.  What the relatively unknown, rookie Bowman accomplished that day, (in an underpowered 220 Offenhauser), against would-be racing gods, like Parnelli Jones, AJ Foyt, Jim Hurtubise, Eddie Sachs, Johnny Rutherford and others (all mostly running with brand new 327 Chevy horsepower), would shock the racing scene, and Stan’s ongoing early success would garner the attention of the Indy Car Championship Circuit.

The lean and lanky driver, who came out of the knobs and hollers of the “State of Gibson,” was officially the equivalent of a racing sensation. He was quickly tapped by Clint Brawner to be the dirt track driver for the Dean Van Lines Racing Team and was scheduled to debut on July 1st, at the Langhorne Speedway, in Pennsylvania.  

However, as was often the case, in the exhilarating chase for speed of the golden era of racing, driver safety was largely overlooked or disregarded completely, and would assist in the gruesome calamity that ensued in June, at the Hot Action Track, in Terre Haute.  

Only two weeks before his inaugural Indy Car race, Stan’s trajectory towards the famed Brickyard was abruptly and violently terminated.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see the  story behind the man, dubbed by many veteran Ohio Valley racers, as the best to ever come out of Washington County, and quite possibly one of the greatest drivers to ever live.

You can also pick up a copy of Lucas's book; “The Bravest of Them All - The Legend of Stan Bowman” at the Stevens Museum during regular business hours.  Additional copies will be made available for sale during the October film viewing.

Admission to this event will be a $5 per person donation towards the preservation efforts of the John Hay Center.   Viewing will be held in the basement of the Stevens Museum.  Refreshments provided with admission. 

For more information on this event and/or to make reservations you can call (812) 883-6495; Tuesday - Friday 9:00 to 5:00.

Racing fans and local history enthusiasts will not want to miss this event, and limited seating is still available, but going fast, so please call for reservations today! 

Both Lucas and Stan’s only child, Randy, will be in attendance. Free guided tours of the museum’s racing exhibit will be available. Please consider coming out to show your support and learn more about our county’s significant standing in racing history!

Category:

Comments

Are books still available for purchase?

Please Login for Premium Content

Site Login Help

For current subscribers to The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, you can login to the site using the following information:

Username: Please use your full email address associated with your account
Password: Please use your last name. Passwords are case sensitive, so please capitalize your last name (eg: Smith)

Breaking News Alerts

Stay informed on our latest news!

Subscribe to Breaking News Alerts feed