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Friday, December 15, 2017

Photos courtesy of Logan DowsonPhotos courtesy of Logan Dowson

Local man chasing his pro racing dreams (slideshow 2)

By Eric Killelea

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Logan Dowson was not like most kids who grew up in Glendive. Most kids did not learn how to ride a KTM 50 cc dirt bike and compete in motocross racing in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. But Logan did.

His parents, Brian and LaRae, introduced him to motocross racing. The boy liked anything that went fast and he wanted to do everything his older brother Dylan did. The brothers enjoyed the sport, but were eventually pulled out of motocross racing after suffering numerous injuries. But then their uncle John offered an alternative and introduced Logan to junior dragster racing in Billings. Logan competed in drag races for several years, before driving quarter-midget races throughout his early teenage years.

Now at age 21, Logan’s love of racing continues, as does his motivation to outdrive anyone on track. He recently finished his third season of racing International Motor Contest Association limited sport mod cars - a mixture of stock cars - on dirt tracks at the Southwest Speedway in Dickinson and the Williston Basin Speedway.

Realizing the dream

Logan quit quarter midget races when he was 13 years old to dedicate his time to football, baseball and basketball. But he never totally gave up racing altogether. He became the starting linebacker and defensive end for the Dawson County High School varsity football team who would ride his Honda 250R dirt bike with friends on BLM land out on Pine Unit.

Two years ago, it was Logan’s senior year of high school when him and his dad, Brian, visited his uncle John’s wife and racing friends in Great Falls. John had passed away five years earlier. The trip out west made Logan remember when he was a boy and watched his uncle race at the former Magic Speedway in Billings, which John owned. “I would sit and watch my uncle racing those late models on the tracks and thought it was something I wanted to do when I got older,” Logan said. “There was something about the dirt flying in the air. Flying around me. It just seemed fun to me.” After the visit to Great Falls, Logan and his dad were driving back to Glendive when they began reminiscing about the dirt tracks. “My dad turned to me and said, If it’s something you want to do you should put your mind to it and make it happen,” Logan said. “He said, You could sell your own dirt bike and see what it takes to build a car.” Brian and Logan spent several hours talking about possibilities on that long stretch of road and when they returned home Logan sold his Honda 250R and, with the help of local racers, managed to track down and buy a car of his own in Fargo, North Dakota.

In Logan’s words, he bought “a 2,500 pound IMCA sports mod that could drive an average of 75-80 mph, with a bare chassis and aluminum body - nothing like a street or bump n’ run car.” The sport mod needed a motor, shocks and wiring, so he planned on rebuilding the car that summer and winter, but soon found another car that a racer had left intact aside from a wrecked frame. With the help of Glendive driver Dillon Price and others, he transferred usable parts from the first car to the second, everything but the chassis. Together they reworked the motor and tires, and after garnering funds from a few local sponsors, Logan chose his racing number: 40.

“My uncle raced with that number,” Logan said. Logan was racing with No. 40 out of respect for his uncle John, who raced with that number in memory of his own son, Derek. Derek wore No. 40 on the back on his jersey when he played high school football, before he tragically died in a farming accident in Great Falls. He was three days shy of 17 years old when he passed. “I wear the number now for my uncle and my cousin.”

Learning from his first two seasons

In the spring of 2015, Logan, rebuilt his second car at Price’s shop. His first race with his first car was at the Southwest Speedway, a ⅜ track in Dickinson. “We didn’t have the car finished in time for the practice races,” Logan said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it wasn’t going to be anything like my previous experiences and I knew that I couldn’t just jump in and expect to win. I just didn’t want to be the guy wrecking into everyone.”

Logan survived that first season and entered a 12-week welding program at Lynnes Training, Inc in Bismarck, N.D. He graduated and used his welding skills for a short time but decided to join the family business at Superior Water and Spas in Glendive. 

In 2016, Logan entered his second season racing. “I didn’t have that great of success in my rookie year but I had learned a lot,” Logan said. “This time I went in more aggressively. I learned details on setting up the chassis along with driving tips. I raced with the best in the country over there in North Dakota.”

Drivers in the Mon-Dak region compete on oval tracks. Like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but dirt and smaller. In keeping left around the track, they focus on hooking their tires to the track to make faster turns than their opponents. “My mom and girlfriend get nervous but my dad knows how safe these cars are,” Logan said. “You can’t budge on safety equipment. Neck harnesses. Containment seats. Good, professionally built roll-cages. I’ve seen a lot of guys take big wrecks. But we’re pretty safe here.”

Logan’s parents and his longtime girlfriend Shaylea Mitchell were among the most supportive of his newfound career and racing goals. “Shaylea has been here since day one,” Logan said. “She thought I was a little nuts when I was getting into racing again, but she and all my family and friends have been supportive. Everyone has helped me in some way.”

Success in his third 

season

As a kid, Logan attended his uncle John’s races, and after watching those races, he thought he would like taking those turns. Earlier this year, Logan drove his IMCA sport mod in five races at the Southwest Speedway.

On May 6, he finished second in the eight-lap heat and ninth in the 20-lap feature. He then place fourth and 10th on June 24. He went on to place first and seventh on July 22 and first and 14th on August 5.

Then it was August 26 when Logan won both the heat and the feature for the first time in his career. “I kind of went over that hump,” said Logan, who celebrated his 21st  birthday two days afterwards. 

Logan was always a talented driver. He succeeded in motocross racing, won a Wally Award in and junior dragster competition and did well in quarter midget events. “When I was younger, I didn’t get worked up about things and didn’t overthink, but somewhere along the past two years, I got too hesitant and concerned that I was going to ruin my car, because I worked hard on it,” Logan said. “Finally, this year, I finally realized that to be good you have to get to the point where you don’t care whether you’re wrecking things. It’s all replaceable. Mentally getting there and getting the car figured out came together at the same time.”

Logan added: As DCHS football coach Ryan Buckley said, “You have to have mental focus.” He believes there exists a middle ground between being aggressive and keeping your poise. 

Transitioning into the future

Logan has since sold his car and purchased an IMCA open wheel A-mod - similar to a sport mod but with bigger motors and rear suspension parts - that he plans to build during the fall and winter. Logan chose to transition to the A-mod because then he could race in more competitions in Belgrade, Billings and Great Falls, rather than just three tracks in North Dakota that run sport mods only.

Logan added: “It’s the closest I’ll ever get to racing what my uncle raced. It’s something. Even when I was younger, I always wanted to race the IMCA A-mods. Run with the big boys.”

Logan has no idea where the racing will take him. “For now, it’s the adrenaline rush, the thrill of it,” Logan said. “I race one night every couple of weeks. To be in the national competitions, you have to race three to four nights a week. I’d love to get to that point. But will it ever happen? Who knows.” 

Reach Eric Killelea at rrsports@rangerreview.com.

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