Race Recap: Grimes, Stewart, Sowell earn wins at Cotton Bowl

PAIGE, Texas (March 30, 2024) — South Texas oval veteran Tommy Grimes; defending points champion Heath Stewart and stock car pilot Tim Sowell all earned feature wins in their respective divisions, as MAN Racing Promotions hosted the season opener Saturday at Cotton Bowl Speedway. 

Grimes powered to victory in the Texas Dirt Truck Series; Stewart kicked off his new season with a win in IMCA Southern SportMod action; while Sowell prevailed in a talent-filled Factory Stock tilt. 

Brandon Spreen (Street Stock); Cameron Starry (IMCA Stock Cars); and Kaden Moran (Sport Compacts) were also feature winners on a beautiful night for racing in Central Texas. 

Grimes, of Devine, started on the pole of a 11-truck grid and led all 20 laps in convincing fashion. Two-time series champion Tony Bernal crossed the stripe in second, while Colton Borlace filled out the podium. Lightning McGreen and 2019 series champion Larry Baggett completed the top five. 

“I can’t thank Mike Jackson and Absolute Performance enough for the opportunity to drive their truck this year,” Grimes said. “We love doing this, as long as we can keep the fans coming out and keep them entertained, we’ll keep doing it.  

“Driving these trucks is a lot like Factory Stock, yet they don’t have the big body panels out back. When you run off into the corner and you want to back it in, there’s nothing to catch it and hold you in place. So it’s a little different; and we make the sides as flat as we can. They’re a lot of fun to drive.”  

Finishing sixth through 10th in the Texas Dirt Truck Series feature were Eric Ramos, Lee Sasso, Treyler Caulfield, Bobby Sanford and Buster Deen. One caution slowed the pace at lap 10 for debris on the track between Turns 3 and 4. Grimes’ margin of victory over Bernal was a healthy 1.319 seconds.  

Stewart, of Webberville, started on the pole of a 14-car SportMod grid and led all 20 laps in fine style. Waco-based veteran Jeff Shepperd drove up from seventh to claim second in his GRC-built machine, while Joseph Pontin Jr. filled out the podium. 

Former points champion James Hanusch and solid contender Robert Stewart rounded out the top five. 

“I didn’t know what the right line on the track was there at the end,” the defending champion told veteran announcer Milton Hope in Victory Lane. “I don’t know who was behind me, but I saw them getting out there to that outside lane. I knew I probably wasn’t in the right spot. 

“But then I saw the No. 5 car come underneath me one time, so, I was just guessing where to be. I have to thank my family, I don’t think I’d be doing this much if my daughter wasn’t racing. It takes a lot of work to do this, and a ton of time in the shop. But it keeps me going working with her.”  

Finishing sixth through 10th in the IMCA Southern SportMod A Main were James Cole (who drove up from 15th), Zak Manthie, John Femrite, Tom Grothues and San Antonio veteran Johnny Torres. One caution slowed the pace at lap 10 for a minor incident.  

Stewart’s margin of victory over Shepperd was a sizable 1.289 seconds, as he was dialed in Saturday. 

Sowell, of Elgin, started third on a 17-car Factory Stock grid, drove to the inside of Dylan Kowalik coming off Turn 4 To take command at lap 15 and hung on to earn top honors. Kowalik, who finished second in final points last year, drove up from ninth to second, while Allen Torres was third.

Longtime Cotton Bowl regular Don Painter claimed fourth, while Johnny Torres wheeled his way up from 17th at the start to a solid fifth-place finish. 

“I actually thought I’d lost the race when Dylan got by me coming off Turn 2,” a surprised Sowell said. “I want to thank my wife and great sponsors for making this happen. This is my first feature win on dirt, and it feels great.” 

Finishing sixth through 10th in the 20-lap Factory Stock feature were Steve Sims, who repaired a heavily damaged car just to compete on Saturday; former champion Tim Homeyer, Shane Lander, James Stansfield and Taylor Stewart. One caution slowed the pace at lap 12 for Taylor Stewart.  

Sowell’s margin of victory over Kowalik was a mere .264 of a second, as they were bumper-to-bumper.

Cotton Bowl’s 2024 season opener drew an impressive 85 entries among six divisions. Led by the popular Factory Stocks with 18 and IMCA Stock Cars with 16, this may be the year full-fendered cars steal the headlines at a track where Modifieds and SportMods once ruled the landscape. 

Officials knocked out a dozen qualifying Heats in short order, took a brief intermission then hosted six entertaining feature races. A positive tone was set when Cotton Bowl hosted the World of Outlaws, and that same healthy Vibe was evident once again during the regular season opener on Saturday evening. 

You can replay every lap of Saturday night’s exciting season opener at Cotton Bowl Speedway with a subscription at Newly re-branded with a commitment to promote local racing, RaceON (formerly RaceON) has over 400 Live events on tap this year from tracks in several states. 

When you sign up today, select one of two options (OnDemand or All Access), choose your favorite (or hometown) track and start enjoying great content while supporting your local track even when you can’t attend in person.  

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer