AFTER FIRST NATIONAL EVENT WIN, KOWALSKI LOOKING TO CONQUER SECOND CLASS
Any racer will tell you that seat time in a race car is the best way to hone your skills in the cockpit, but even then, many racers will spend decades making passes down the dragstrip and still come up short in their quest to score a victory at an NHRA national event.
However, that certainly wasn’t the case for Evan Kowalski, who at 20 years old piloted his 2005 Spitzer Corvette roadster to his first career victory during this year’s Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, Calif.
“It was just right time, right place. Everything worked out,” he said. “My car was flawless. I couldn’t cut a light, but the car made me look good.”
Even though Kowalski is quick to credit his car for much of his success, his racing experience certainly played a role. He entered the final round in Sonoma with more than 12 years of racing under his belt, kicking of his racing career at the ripe age of 8 in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League with his father, Rich, serving as his crew chief.
“We have a shop, Riverside Transmission, so my dad has a mechanical background. He’s always been into drag racing. We’ve gone to the Pomona national events since I was a little kid," said Kowalski. "We had a customer whose son raced Jr. Dragsters, and we went to a race to check them out. My dad and I immediately became fans, and we got a car and have been racing ever since."
After outgrowing the Jr. Drag Racing League, the first-generation driver bracket raced for a while with a Monza and enjoyed success. They eventually sold the Monza and purchased their current Super Gas car, a 2005 Spitzer Corvette roadster that is powered by a Scott Shafiroff-built 582-cid engine that is aided by an APD Max Speed carburetor and BTE Racing Powerglide transmission and torque converter.
When the Riverside, Calif., native made the 8-hour trip to attend the Sonoma national event, he never imagined he'd reach the final round, and when he did, he was able to keep his emotions in check an win by a slim .0133-second.
"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. In the final round, I was just happy to be there. Either way I would have been satisfied," said Kowalski, who thanked his parents, the Riverside Transmission staff, his entire family, and all of his racing friends for helping out during his career. "The hardest race was probably the third round because the winner got a bye in the quarterfinals.
"I’ve been to finals and have won my fair share of races, but this was by far the biggest one. A lot of those guys are national event winners, national champions, division champs, and all-stars. It’s the best of the best."
Following the biggest victory of his career, Kowalski will now attempt to race in a second class: Super Comp.
"We just picked up a Super Comp dragster. The plan is to do Super Comp and Super Comp at all the events and bracket racing," he said. "Our immediate goal is to win a Super Gas or Super Comp division championship. I’d obviously love to be a national champion; that’s probably everyone’s goal. I just want to keep racing as long as I can and be successful.
“The Jr. Drag Racing League taught me the fundamentals of racing and exposed me to high-pressure situations. I know you can't compare a Jr. Drag Racing event to a national event, but it does prepare you. The earlier you start, the better you get at it.”