Racer Trades Rubber For Gold

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Usually, as soon as Bob Lowery finishes an auto race, his wife, Debbie, grabs his helmet so he can't throw it in frustration.

But on Labor Day, at the end of the St. Johns Grand Prix, Debbie wasn't worried.

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"They said I had the biggest smile of any race-car driver ever," said Bob Lowery of the moment when he was handed his trophies.

Lowery won the event's open wheel race from behind the wheel of his Ralt RT-5 Formula Atlantic car.

And no one was more surprised than Lowery, who has lived in Payson for 29 of his 52 years.

"For the past couple of years that I've owned that car, I've had a lot of trouble with it, and with finding people who know how to work on it, especially in the Payson area," Lowery said. "So we went to Chicago and had a pro motor built ... but when we got to St. Johns, we had car trouble right off the bat."

Bailing Lowery out of that tight spot were Jessie Smith, owner of Mountain Air Auto Service in Payson, and his father-in-law, Audi Scott, who were at the race as the mechanics of a car owned by Payson restraurateur Jeff Seivert.

"Jeff had major car trouble," Lowery said, "so they just switched over to my car. If it wasn't for Jesse and Audi, and the local NAPA dealer who got me the technical part they knew I needed, I would not have won the two first places.

"There's many days I should have burned the car and dumped my helmet. But I just hung in there, and things finally went together."

Lowery has raced cars most of his life, he said.

"I started out with go-karts, I raced stock cars illegally because I was under age, I ran some sprint cars. My father didn't like me racing, but I had a neighbor that was into it, and he helped me build a 1958 Buick stock car," he said. "My dad wouldn't sign for me, so the neighbor signed and said he was my father. I raced illegally for about six months, until my dad found out about it and kicked my butt."

Lowery has been racing legally ever since he came of age.

"But when you move to Payson," he said, "well, there's just not a lot of racing going on. That's why I ended up getting into formula racing."

Does Lowery have any ambitions beyond the St. Johns Grand Prix?

"I hope to win the Formula Atlantic for Arizona this year," he said. "We have one race coming up at the end of September at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, and then we go to Phoenix International Raceway the first weekend of October."

For now, though, Lowery is going to focus on the thrill of his victories at the St. Johns Grand Prix, where he also won first place in the truck diesel drag with his Ford F250.

"They said I had the biggest smile of any race-car driver ever," Lowery said. "When you're 52 years old and you can outrun the young kids out there on that track, that makes you feel pretty good. It's a treat."

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