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St. Charles, Michigan’s “Smilin’ Joe” Fowler has been an integral part of Michigan dirt track oval racing since 1973.
From the start, family played a big role in Fowlers racing endeavors; “All three of my older brothers raced at some point and my dad and I would go everywhere racing”. As the second (2nd) youngest of the Fowler boys, Joey was anxious to try his hand behind the wheel and even made an attempt to do so in the 1972 racing season, as he laughingly recalled, “My first race was supposed to be at Raceland Speedway in Oscoda, Michigan. But as I was waiting in lineup Jack Goodwin walked out in front of my car and said, ‘Son! Do you have a driver’s license?’ I looked at big Jack and said, ‘No Sir!’ He told me that I was done and that was that!”
That following season Joey finally got to take to the track and honed his skills on the Northeast Michigan dirt tracks of Raceland (Oscoda) and Whittemore before taking on a new challenge in 1974. That season he branched out onto asphalt, “West Branch Speedway was an asphalt track that ran Friday nights, and in 1974 we raced the entire season there and incredibly enough won the championship on asphalt! We ran Friday’s at West Branch and Saturday’s at Whittemore on the dirt, it was the same car and we didn’t think anything of it, just strapped in and went. We had a lot of fun during that time period!” exclaimed Joey.
To-date, that first championship remains Fowlers only on asphalt as he has spent the remainder of his career calling Whittemore, Standish, Crystal, Merritt, Mt. Pleasant, Cherry, and Tri-City Speedways home while venturing to various speedways throughout the region for special events.
An engine builder and racing equipment supplier (Arrow Racing Supply), Fowlers involvement in the sport goes far beyond his accomplishments behind the wheel of his own no.19. Fowler has been named ‘Engine Builder of the Year” twice (2) (2012,2015) at Tri-City Motor Speedway and four (4) times (2007, 2010, 20112, 2014) at Crystal Motor Speedway, and it is not an uncommon sight to see him turning wrenches on a competitor’s car on any given weekend.
While behind the wheel, Fowler is a force to be reckoned with; having captured an estimated 800 heat race wins, and 200 feature victories while piloting his no.19 Street Stock, Pro-Truck, Pro-Stock, Late Model and Modified.
Joey Fowler’s most notable accomplishments include:
• 1990 Pro-Stock Champion – Crystal Motor Speedway
• 1991 Pro-Stock Champion – Mt. Pleasant Speedway
• 1995 IMCA Modified Champion – Crystal Motor Speedway
• 1999 Michigan Modified State Champion (Dirt & Overall)
• 2006 Modified Champion – Merritt Speedway
• 2007 IMCA Modified Champion – Crystal Motor Speedway
• 2009 IMCA Modified Champion – Mid-Michigan Raceway Park
• Four (4)-Time Modified Champion – Mt. Pleasant Speedway (2000,2001, 2003, 2006)
• Two (2)-Time WoodTic 100 Modified winner – Merritt Speedway (2000 & 2005)
• Great Lakes Nationals Modified winner – Crystal Motor Speedway
• Battle By The Bay Modified winner – Tri-City Speedway
• 2006 Joe B Memorial Race winner – Mt. Pleasant Speedway
• Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour race winner – Butler Motor Speedway
• Three (3)-Time Michigan Modified Wives Race winner – Mt. Pleasant Speedway
• At least one (1) feature win for forty three (43) straight years
Joey has also been recognized for his eagerness to help his fellow drivers with a willing hand and ever-ready smile with Sportsman of the Year honors.
Joey Fowler continues to build upon an already impressive racing career, piloting his no.19 Modified which can be seen at various tracks throughout the state.
Even when he is not behind the wheel, Fowler will often be found with his wife Mary, their children, grandchildren and nephew in the grandstands watching.