When Phil Fowler first started racing at Eastbound International Speedway, he would often do giveaways after races with young fans, holding competitions with kids in the stands to win his steering wheel, helmet, or other pieces of his car.
One year after a crash, he even gave away the hood of his late model.
“I don‘t know how impressed the dad was with that that he had to take a hood panel home,” Fowler said. “But the kid loved it and seeing the smile on the kid‘s face, that‘s what really means more for our race team.”
Fowler and his race team focus everything on kids, and for at least the next three years his car will reflect that focus. Fowler‘s late model will carry a paint scheme with the signature red and yellow and the emblem for Ronald McDonald House on the hood. Ronald McDonald House Charities is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children,” the website states.
Fowler will race the car in the Advance Auto Parts Division One at Eastbound International Speedway — a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.375-mile semi-banked asphalt oval track in St. John‘s, Newfoundland. He has an eighth and a sixth-place finish so far this season.
After the paint scheme was unveiled, Fowler took the car to the Ronald McDonald House St. John‘s location, where the president arranged to allow some of the children staying there to see the car, get in, and ask Fowler questions about racing.
“It was almost like they felt like they were actually driving the car,” Fowler said. “A couple of the kids there were really, really, really enticed by it. It just broke up their day for them and let them forget things for a while so they could have a bit of fun.
“It put smiles on their faces. The kids actually really loved it and the parents seemed like they enjoyed it just as much as the children. They asked us as many questions as the kids did.”
Fowler will again display his car and his team‘s tractor-trailer at the St. John‘s Ronald McDonald House and have a meet and greet this weekend to allow race fans or non-race fans to see the car and possibly make a donation or leave a gift for the children.
“We try to do everything we can for local children and we focus on the children mostly,” he said. “We try to make everything better for those because the most important thing is supporting those kids, of course.”
Fowler has been racing at Eastbound for five years, his first time racing on an oval track. An interest in cars when he was growing up drew him to drag racing because there weren‘t any oval tracks near his home.
He got out of the sport for a time to go to college and play competitive hockey. After Eastbound was built, the owners convinced Fowler to try out a legends car that he raced for two years.
Fowler then moved up to late models, which he‘s been racing ever since.
“There‘s nothing like an oval track. It‘s a pretty different sport,” Fowler said. “The camaraderie with oval tracks is a lot different than drag racing. It‘s a lot more intense, a lot more fun.
“It‘s really intense, really competitive. A lot of competition so you‘re either on your A-game or you‘re in the back of the pack with this racing.”
The first couple of years were a big learning curve for Fowler and his team, trying to get the track and set-up figured out. He had to learn how to stay out of trouble and not be too aggressive, while still maintaining speed.
While Fowler thinks his car is getting faster, he knows his competition is getting faster too. It‘s that competitive nature to keep up with them that keeps him on the track.
“As of right now we are a really competitive car. We have great sponsors that back us so we can do what we‘re doing,” Fowler said. “We can be a top-3 car in every race.
“Every year the car is getting faster and faster. The competition part keeps bringing us back because the better we get the better other cars are getting. It seems like every season others are getting faster and faster and the races are getting bigger.”
With two top-10 finishes this season, Fowler has one goal in mind for 2021 — win a championship. He and his team won a track championship at Thunder Valley Speedway in Canada last season, but he‘s still looking for an Eastbound title.
“We do have a car that‘s really good and can win a few races, so we‘re hoping to get a few wins under our belt so we can run up at the top in points again and hopefully we can get a championship this year…and get our names on a NASCAR plaque.”
If anyone would like to help out Ronald McDonald House, they can make donations here.
Racing will return to Eastbound Speedway on June 20 for the Bay By Bay LTD 100.