TOOELE When he came to Utah last summer, Jason Bowles looked to create a personal breakout moment in the NASCAR Camping World Series circuit.
Bowles found the perfect exclamation point to punctuate a successful rookie season by earning his first career victory at Miller Motorsports Park. That first-place finish, coupled with another victory at California Speedway a month later, propelled him to rookie of the year honors.
Now, in his return to Utah, Bowles hopes to use Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Series 125 race to accelerate a push for an even greater achievement his first overall series championship.
For the most part, Bowles plans on sticking with what worked last time during his second go-around.
"We brought the same car we ran here last year," Bowles said. "We've done a little bit of testing over the winter, so the setup we're coming with is a little bit different. But we haven't changed a lot of stuff for this race."
There is some urgency for him to do well. Bowles is in second place in the points standings, trying to make up ground behind leader Eric Holmes. Both racers will be racing in Tooele on Saturday, and Bowles knows every lap he leads and any spot he finishes higher than Holmes will be invaluable.
"I need to get every point I can right now, in hopes of catching him in these last four races," said Bowles, who has 1,425 points compared to 1,506 for Holmes.
Bowles has a slight edge over Holmes, with the latter making his debut at Miller Motorsports Park. Holmes admits that the Tooele County course is much different than the typical road racecourse he has been accustomed to in the past.
He took a few test laps on the course in March and immediately felt blown away by the sheer flatness of the terrain.
"I've done one street race, but other than that every course I've been to has had hills," Holmes said. "Sonoma, Limerock, a lot of the road courses (have) lots of hills. This is so flat out there, it's a little different to get used to."
If Holmes prevails in Saturday's race, it will add another positive chapter in his return to the west division of the NASCAR Camping World Series after a one-year absence.
He was the top rookie in 2006 and capped off the season with his first overall series championship. In 2008, he has been the top racer again with four victories and seven top-five finishes to his credit so far.
For Holmes, coming out on top at Miller Motorsports Park will come down to relying on a greater degree of patience and late-race strategy to account for the desert heat and flat course."You've got to be smooth and save the car for the end," Holmes said. "It's a fairly long race and it's hard on motors and transmissions and tires. You've got to be smooth and smart to be there at the end."