PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Its often been said the community of racing is a big family and that is quite evident when you talk to Sprint Car driver Carl Bowser and his wife Kristin Swartzlander.
Bowser remembers his first trip to Lernerville Speedway in Sarver and it was not long after that he caught the racing “bug”.
“I kind of first got the bug probably a lot later in life than most guys,” Bowser told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast. “I didn’t do the go-kart deal, my first experience with racing was going to Lernerville and watching. I was probably 12 or 13 (years old) when I started going to Lernerville as a kid watching.”
Swartzlander comes from a racing family and spent countless hours surrounded by racing.
“I was raised in it,” Swartzlander told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast. “My generation is the fourth generation. My Great Grandfather Neil raced. My Grandfather Melvin raced and my Uncle Brian obviously still races in the Big Block Modified division. My parents have a machine shop that they’ve had since I was about six-years-old, so I grew up in that environment.”
The environment sparked a curiosity in Swartzlander.
“I really liked seeing how things were made and seeing how things work and Brian’s shop has always been housed up there so I got to really see how the mechanics of everything worked,” said Swartzlander. “In 2004, I think I was 18, my family both a speed shop so we got a lot more involved. We started selling parts out of the store and I started doing trackside service and really getting involved on that level and that’s how Carl and I met.”
“My first experience was working on race cars,” said Bowser. “I actually worked on Ralph Spithaler’s 410-sprint car at Lernerville so that was kind of what got me hooked was watching them and working on them.”
Bowser then hopped in a micro-sprint and found success pretty quickly.
“I think I won 9-races that first season and it was kind of like ‘alright what’s next?’,” said Bowser. “What’s next was a 410-car and that’s where we started there in 2005 running 410-winged cars. We just kind of started running Lernerville and that’s really all, and until 2009-2010 that’s all we did.”
While Bowser was getting experience behind the wheel, Swartzlander went to school.
“I went to Columbia to get my engineering degree thinking I would work on race cars,” said Swartzlander. “But I got really involved in marketing while I was at Columbia so I went in that direction.”
Swartzlander’s marketing path took her to stints with the Arena Football League and to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and eventually back to Pittsburgh.
“When I moved back to Pittsburgh and Carl and I started dating, we saw the same opportunity that we’re seeing right now in racing, where there’s just a wide-open playing field for people who want to do marketing well.”
“I started dating Kristin in 2010 and being around her family kind of really encouraged me to take the next step and race more,” said Bowser. “I only ran whatever Lernerville raced, that was pretty much it for the first five years of racing, so it was 15-18 races-a-year so it wasn’t until 2010 when I started taking it more seriously. It was purely a one-night-a-week thing when I started. A lot of people don’t know but her Dad was a big supporter of mine long before we were even together, helping me with parts and working on the car and just kind of teaching me.”
Taking the next step involved some a combination of the pairs strengths.
“We got together and it was ‘we can turn this into a business’ and she had a lot of ideas,” said Bowser.
“If he could race more and if we could apply some of the things that I’ve learned in professional sports to his team, that would make a good match so we started applying some of those things,” said Swartzlander.
Bowser said the additional seat time and approach has paid dividends.
“Since Kristin and I have been together and she’s kind of really shown me how to run racing like a business, we’ve won 35-races, which is a lot,” said Bowser. “I think I have 40-career wins.”
2019 was a frustrating season for Bowser on the track, blowing a motor early in the season and losing a car around the mid-point. Bowser felt like they finally hit their stride late in the year.
2020 will see the pair putting their driving and marketing skills on a schedule of local, regional and national events.
To hear the complete Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast featuring Carl and Kristin click here.
Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.
The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.
The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.
Race teams are needed to take part in the survey! Here is link to the team survey: https://forms.gle/XWTehM4nsKGfzTC58
Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts. Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor: https://forms.gle/vEcZR5XJbQHKPBLLA
Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete. Here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/EX32bbXubANUaUGr7
Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/fkhuwgg3EDvFTGuR7
The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.
Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.
Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back
SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.
Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.
“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”
Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.
Here’s the full schedule:
- Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
- Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
- Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
- Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
- Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park
Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.
Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.
Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.
Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.
“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”
“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”
One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge. The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.
The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.
“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”
Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event. Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.