NORWALK, Ohio (November 11, 2013) – With one runner-up in the Summit Tournament of Champions already in his career, Austin Cowan was determined that this time would be different.
Cowan finished runner-up in the 2011 version of IHRA's championship tournament in Top Dragster and with another shot at a world championship at stake, Cowan buckled down and prepared for one of the biggest rides of his life.
Fortunately for him, that intense final run was transformed more into a leisurely victory lap after final round opponent Trevor Ritchie, travelling all the way Alberta, Canada, broke on the line and couldn't complete the pass.
"I was pretty nervous for the final. I have been here before, but there is still a lot riding on this run," Cowan said." I just kept telling myself, stay calm, you have been here before, just go out and do what you have been doing. Once I saw that my opponent had broke I went crazy. I was screaming the whole way down the track. The guys at the top end were trying to slow me down because I was flying around the bend, but I was just so I excited. I couldn't believe it. Heck, I still can't believe it."
But it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine for Cowan.
The weekend for the Bulverde, Texas native actually began with a whole host of problems Thursday night after they unloaded the car. First it was a bit of tire shake and a change out of the ignition box. Then, the throttle hung on Cowan's very fast dragster and he was forced to pull the chutes and burned up the brakes. After that, it was just a feeling of what else can go wrong?
"I figured once Thursday was over, we had to have gotten all of the bugs worked out. All of the bad stuff we were going through meant that it was going to be a good weekend – at least that is what we told ourselves," Cowan said.
But it wasn't over just yet for Cowan. In the first round of eliminations it was driver error, not car trouble, that almost cost him a round win when he missed the tree. But in the other lane first round opponent Michael White broke, giving Cowan yet another mulligan on his scorecard.
"That first round was my lucky round for sure. We missed the tree and the guy broke, which saved our weekend," Cowan said. "Having all of those problems hit us at once, it does mess with you a little bit, but you just have to put it aside and not worry about what might happen next. You just have to focus on going rounds and getting it done on the track."
And that is exactly what Cowan did the rest of the way.
Cowan more than made up for his first round error with tremendous passes in rounds two and three including a .007 package in round two against series veteran Steve Dweck, producing a .002 reaction time with a 7.125 pass on a 7.12 dial. In the semis Cowan produced again, this time with a .016 light and a perfect 7.120 pass on a 7.12 dial at 182.77 miles per hour to defeat David Johns who nearly equaled him, putting together a .020 reaction time and a 7.161 on a 7.16 at 185.10 mph.
"Our weekend was just amazing. Once we got over the bumps the car was deadly all afternoon," Cowan said.
Top Dragster Final – Austin Cowan (near) vs. Trevor Ritchie
Sadly the incredible final round showdown with Canadian Trevor Ritchie failed to take shape as problems struck Ritchie, allowing Cowan to take it easy on his final pass.
With the win, Cowan wraps up a successful year that included two final round appearances and a third place finish in Division 4 behind division champion Matt Levatino. Ritchie also put together a strong year, finishing with two wins and taking the Top Dragster championship in Division 6.
And for Cowan, he is convinced that it is the tough competition with the IHRA's Renegades Division which allowed him to take the championship in Memphis.
"Matt was the top guy in our class and he was killing us all year long. He did a great job and I believe if I hadn't been racing him so hard all year long, I probably wouldn't be as good as I am this year," Cowan said. "I would have to say that Texas has some of the best racers in the world and that really toughens you up and gives you confidence when you go out and face racers from around the country."
Now Cowan can add the title world champion to his name and the No. 1 to his car in a career that began racing Junior Dragsters at age 12.