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 Elias Bowie
Born:      Died: January 26, 2005
Home: San Mateo, CA

Elias Bowie became the first African-American to race in NASCAR's top series, then known as Grand National, when he raced in the July 31, 1955 event at San Mateo, California at the Bay Meadow Speedway. Staring 31st, Bowie finished 28th in his only NASCAR race that was won by Tim Flock.

The First African-American NASCAR Driver: It Wasn't Wendell Scott
April 18, 2008    By Rebecca Gladden

Most sources that document the early history of stock car racing list Wendell Scott as the first African-American NASCAR driver, and understandably so.

Scott was a true racer - the first and only African-American driver ever to win in the Grand National/Winston Cup series.

That victory came in 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, in a race which also featured Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, and other top NASCAR stars of the day.

Over the course of his 13-year career, Scott competed in 495 Cup races from 1961 to 1973. He posted 20 top-5 and 147 top-10 finishes including his win, and finished in the top 10 in points three times - sixth in 1966, and ninth in both 1968 and 1969.

Wendell Scott was the first African-American NASCAR driver to race at the Cup level on a long-term basis, but historical sources which dig a little deeper typically list Charlie Scott (no relation to Wendell), as the first African-American driver ever to compete in a Cup race.

A 2008 article on NASCAR.com states, "Charlie Scott will go down in history as the first African-American driver to make a NASCAR race. He competed on the Daytona Beach road course in 1956 in a Kiekhaefer Chrysler. When the checkered waved, Scott found himself in 19th place, earning $75 dollars for his efforts."

That was Charlie Scott's only race, and it occurred on February 26, 1956.

I recently came across an interesting bit of information that may change NASCAR history: A page from the August 1, 1955, edition of the San Mateo (CA) Times newspaper, with an article about that weekend's NASCAR race at Bay Meadows Speedway.

The 250-lap Grand National Series race was held on July 31, 1955, on the one-mile San Mateo dirt track. It featured several NASCAR stars of the time, including Lee Petty, Marvin Panch, Buck Baker, Ed Negre (making his Cup series debut), and Tim Flock -- the race winner, who also won the Grand National title that year.

Finishing 28th that day in a field of 34 cars, in front of 15,000 fans, was Elias Bowie, making his first and only NASCAR Cup appearance.

Elias Bowie was African-American.

According to relatives, Mr. Bowie was something of a pioneer in areas besides racing. He owned several transportation companies in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, CA, primarily jitney buses and taxi cabs, at a time when it was still rare for African-Americans to own businesses.

The race in which Bowie competed was marred by several accidents, though no serious injuries resulted. "(The) most spectacular crash came when a tire hurtled from the car of Carl Hammill of Sacramento as it went into the south turn," reads the article. "The car flipped over and spun helplessly like a turtle on its back. Hammill crawled out unhurt." Additionally, "Bill Amick of Portland, Ore. and Allen Adkins of Fresno both went through the fence early, but were unhurt."

Mr. Bowie, by all accounts a colorful character who loved Cadillacs and always wore his fedora when he drove, proved to be just as entertaining in the NASCAR race according to the newspaper account. "He had the largest pit crew, topped by a lanky double-jointed chap in green fatigue uniform. He also had provided a full tank car of Mobil Oil gas. In spite of (or because of) these precautions, Bowie completed the race."

Bowie's name, credited as Eliso Bowie, and race participation is listed on the authoritative racing statistics website, Racing-Reference.info, which contains the results from every Strictly Stock, Grand National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, Sprint Cup, Busch Series, Nationwide Series and Craftsman Truck Series race ever run.

Interestingly, Bowie was a descendent of James Bowie, free man of color (1795-1832), whose story can be found here: www.jamesbowiefmc.com.

While neither Charlie Scott nor Elias Bowie achieved the success or longevity of Wendell Scott in NASCAR racing, the 1955 San Mateo Times newspaper article seems to indicate that it is, in fact, Elias Bowie who deserves at least a mention as the first-ever African-American NASCAR driver.


Standard Military Memorial for Elias Bowie
Steve Bowie Writes: My cousin Craig, who knew Elias quite well (I never met him) was
the source for all the Elias pictures. He did a nice verbal portrait of Elias on his blog at http://blog.geneablogie.net/2008/12/04/elias-bowie-1910-2005/

You can contact him through his blog.
 

Elias Bowieís Amazing Race
Written by Craig on October 3rd, 2006

Over the weekend, I came across a news story from the San Mateo, Calif., Times, dated August 1, 1955. The story recounts a NASCAR race at Bay Meadows in Northern California. The winner of the race was Tim Flock of Atlanta, then the nationís leading stock car driver. But what caught my eye was the last paragraph of the story:

"Unintentional comedy relief during the grim racing was provided by Elias Bowie of Oakland driving a 1955 Cadillac in his first stock car race. Bowie toured the course as a Sunday driver checking the scenery. He had the largest pit crew, topped by a lanky double-jointed chap in green fatigue uniform. He also had provided a full tank car of Mobiloil gas. In spite of (or because of) these precautions, Bowie completed the race."

[San Mateo Times, Monday, August 1, 1955, p.10].

Elias Bowie was my fatherís uncle (my grandmotherís brother). All of his life, at least as long as I knew him, he always drove a Cadillac!      (Web Blog)

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From Nascar.com: Feb 2009: Elias Bowie made his only start in July 1955 at Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo, Calif., in a 250-lap Grand National race that featured notable drivers such as winner Tim Flock, Marvin Panch and Lee Petty.

At the time, Bowie owned several transportation companies in the Bay Area.

The track was a 1-mile dirt track and this was the second of three Grand National races it would host. Bowie started 31st in the No. 60 Cadillac.

The race went 252 laps with Bowie completing 172 and was still running when the checkered flag dropped. He crossed the line with a 28th-place finish, earning Bowie $90.

Bowie died Jan. 26, 2005.

 

 
Please send any information, stories or pictures

you have for this driver

Hi:
 
I'm a cousin of Elias Bowie. I have a picture of him on my genealogy website, near the bottom of this page: http://www.jamesbowiefmc.com/1950-198.htm
 
Thank you for honoring him!
 
Sincerely,
Steve Bowie 1/11/10

1955 NASCAR Race Results

Name of Track: Bay Meadows Speedway
Location: San Mateo, CA

Below are the race results for 1955-Race #30, in order of finishing place.

Fin Driver Num Start Money Laps Pts Status Sponsor
1 Tim Flock 300 1 $2,050 252 0 running Mercury Outboards
2 John Kieper 11 2 $1,450 251 0 running Beryl Jackson
3 Danny Letner 6 3 $700 249 0 running Coz Concilla
4 Marvin Panch 98 4 $650 247 0 running John Hernandez
5 Buck Baker 89 29 $550 247 0 running Buck Baker
6 Lee Petty 42 6 $450 246 0 running Petty Enterprises
8 Lloyd Dane 99 7 $250 242 0 running Les Milfield
12 Allen Adkins 2 5 $150 233 0 crash Charles Vance
14 Ed Brown 26 15 $100 228 0 running Ed Brown
15 Royce Haggerty 15 17 $100 228 0 running Curly Weida
17 Eddie Pagan 9 23 $100 225 0 running Eddie Pagan
18 Owen Loggins 77 19 $100 223 0 running Fred Bince
19 Bob Havenmann 24 20 $50 218 0 running Bob Havenmann
23 Dusty Fuller 52 32 $40 197 0 running  
24 Dick Rathmann 5 14 $40 197 0 con rod Don Oliver
28 Eliso Bowie 60 31 $90 172 0 running  
29 Bill Amick 3 18 $40 155 0 crash  
30 Carl Hammill 66 25 $40 144 0 crash  
31 Sherman Clark 34 11 $40 110 0 tire Sherman Clark
32 Jim Cook 50 22 $40 110 0 con rod Leroy Weyher
34 Crash Carson 7 34 $40 8 0 oil press

Grand National Driver Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1955   1 of 45 0 0 0 0 172 0 90 223 31.0 28.0
1 year 1 0 0 0 0 172 0 90   31.0 28.0
Race Site Cars St Fin # Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
30 San Mateo 34 31 28 60   Cadillac 172/252 90 running  


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