- Published on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 00:34
Heads up and index classes join the Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series twice in 2013.
NORWALK, Ohio – “What do you think about drag racing?”
Tom Cowle looked intently at Kristal on their first date, searching for a flicker of shared interest.
“Before eight years ago, I had never been to a drag race,” Kristal said. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about it.’ By his reaction I didn’t know if there would be date number 2.”
Racing a 1994 Camaro at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio at the time, Tom Cowle introduced Kristal to his race track world. She embraced it; they married.
Now Kristal Cowle carries on Tom’s passion and legacy at the helm of the Renegade Racing Association which Tom Cowle and three other racers – Paul Suloff, Al Matuska, and Chris Klink – founded in the fall of 2009.
“Four years ago there was a group of displaced racers,” said Kristal Cowle, Geneva, Ohio. “Four guys got together to create a home for them. In 2010, our first season, we had one class, an 8.90 index with 13 racers.”
Jim Curtis allowed the group to race at Thompson Raceway Park, Kristal Cowle said.
“Once the Founding Four got it off the ground, Tom took over as the director,” Kristal Cowle said, adding that about the same time, the young family coped with Tom’s diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease and frustrations of the degenerative illness.
Often, the Renegade Racing Association buoyed Tom’s sense of purpose.
“When the series started I came home from work one day,” Kristal Cowle said. “It was like Christmas morning, he was so excited. He lived vicariously through the racers.”
In 2013 the eight events on the schedule include two – June 1 and Sept. 7 -- along with the Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
To expand the association, Kristal Cowle negotiated with Kurt Johnson, track manager at Summit Motorsports Park, to spice the Mr. Gasket $53,100 Super Series with heads up and index racing.
“I got the green light from Kurt just enough to say we were coming to Norwalk,” Kristal Cowle said. “I saved it for the end of my banquet. The uproar; the excitement; the cheering -- it was exciting!
“And 2013 is setting up to be by far the best, expanding to Norwalk,” Kristal Cowle said.
The four current classes in the Renegade Racing Series include:
• Mickey Thompson Outlaw Unlimited Street, a heads up class where the first one to the finish line wins.
• Jim Mikesina Security 8.90 index, the original class of the series, with cars hitting speeds of 140 mph to 153 mph.
• 2Fast Garage 9.90 index, in its second season, with speeds of 120 mph to 130 mph.
• Chumley Motorsports 10.50 index, in its third season, with speeds of 118 mph to 128 mph.
Linking her husband’s passion to the next generation, Kristal plans to rebuild Tom’s 1994 Camaro so their now 14-year-old daughter may race it in the 10.50 class some day, she said.
And any age of racers hungering for a little bit of heads up or index action gather information from the Renegade Racing Association Website.
“We do quite a bit of posting on our Facebook page,” Kristal Cowle said. “We tell everyone to go to our Website for the rules. Because we’re a street-appearing class, we don’t allow decals on the cars.
“It has to look like it can be driven on the street,” Kristal Cowle said.
While the two events at Summit Motorsports Park count in the Renegade Racing Association season points race, people not entered in points may participate. The cost is $55 at the gate for index classes, or $75 for outlaw unlimited street, Kristal Cowle said.
“Coming to Norwalk, I anticipate good car counts there,” Kristal Cowle said, adding registration lasts until May 11, 2013 for the season points race.
Tom left Kristal and the children with his legacy and the people he loved. Through the most difficult times, friends in the Renegade Racing Association made all the difference.
“We are like one huge family,” Kristal Cowle said. “It’s a great family group of people.
“The last year I stayed at home with him,” Kristal Cowle said. The responsibility of running the association gradually shifted to her. “This is what we did, day in and day out. I didn’t know I was being prepped for this.
“He really only had a bad two weeks,” Kristal Cowle said. “We went on vacation in January. In 2012 in February, he passed away on a Sunday. On Friday he was still working on Renegade stuff.
“He wouldn’t let me tell them that he had taken a turn for the worse, because they couldn’t change anything.”
A hands-on single mom with three children ages seven through 14, Kristal tends the fledgling organization between packing lunches and after-school functions.
“I was substitute teaching for a while,” Kristal Cowle said. “I was talking with a coworker at the time. The job I don’t get paid for is literally the best job. I can’t imagine not doing what I do. Ten years ago if you asked me what I was going to do in 10 years, I never would have come up with this.
“It’s heartbreaking at the same time how I got it,” Kristal Cowle said. “Tom left us with something to fill our days. This is the best medicine, it really is: getting to carry on.”
Each season the Renegade Racing Association advances further into the mainstream drag racing community.
“Jim Curtis gave us the opportunity and Kurt (Johnson) and Bill (Bader Jr.) opened the doors and welcomed us in,” Kristal Cowle said. “It’s really exciting. I’m so excited to get to Norwalk and get to run there. It will be great.”