Westmoreland County siblings bond at race track
By their father's admission, Kara Jo and Nick Bowman are “race brats,” and that's not a bad thing.
Ever since Kara Jo was 6 months old and Nick was 2 1⁄2 months old, they have been going to the drag strip with their parents, Tim and Karen Bowman. Tim has raced for 38 years so it is only natural that his two children do the same. They're familiar faces at Pittsburgh Raceway Park in New Alexandria.
“It's what we have always done,” Tim said. “I raced, and still do, with my brothers (Bruce and Keith).”
Kara Jo, 31, lives in Avonmore, and Nick, 26, lives in Washington Township. Both graduated from Kiski Area and work for Bayer Corporation.
Tim Bowman teaches at WyoTech near Blairsville and runs the family's performance engine shop in Export.
“I grew up with Matchbox cars, not Barbie dolls,” Kara Jo said. “This is what we have always done. When we were kids basically we were any second hand or extra hand they needed while working on the cars.
“I don't know if we'd all be friends if it weren't for the racing. Even at Thanksgiving, that's what we talk about at the table. We're just very passionate about the sport.”
What started as three brothers racing has evolved into a family race program. Kara races in Top Class, and Nick races his Modified. Uncle Bruce still races while Uncle Keith helps where needed on the cars and keeps his hands in the business after a 20-year stint as a starter at PRP.
“They keep me pretty busy,” Tim said. “I have a pretty fast car and it takes a lot of work. It can be pretty nerve-wracking trying to monitor what they are doing but they are racing brats and they both know what to do with their equipment.”
Nick won his second championship this season and Kara Jo finished in the top five in the Top Class. Kara Jo was named the 1998 Keystone Raceway Park, now PRP, Rookie of the Year and in 1999 she won the High School Class.
“When I started to race I had a daily driver, an '89 (Chrysler) New Yorker,” Kara Jo said. “I'm just 5-feet tall and 100 pounds wet, I sat on a pillow in that first car.”
A few weeks ago Kara Jo and Nick won on the same night, something they had never accomplished.
“That was a big thrill for me,” Nick said. “I had just won with a ‘brand new' junkyard motor and then five minutes later she (Kara Jo) comes through and wins. It was great.”
Tim had been through that situation with his brothers so it was something special to see his children accomplish that feat.
“I enjoy my own wins, too,” Tim said. “But this was special.”
For Kara Jo, there are a couple different dynamics at play when they are all racing at the track, especially with her brother.
“It is fun, but there is a bit of a rivalry there,” Kara Jo said. “The best was when we both won. We both went through as many rounds to get there. When it comes to something like that, we are very supportive of each other.”
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.