WOODBURN – There is no greater way to cap a miraculous comeback.
After sustaining life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle crash on a Tennessee highway in 2011, Shawn Cowie thought he would test his Top Alcohol Dragster at Woodburn Dragstrip this weekend in an attempt to regain his NHRA license.
Instead he won the event.
Cowie, from Vancouver, British Columbia, was the No. 1 qualifier in Top Alcohol Dragster in his first time in a car since the crash, and he mowed through the eight-car field to win the Les Schwab Challenge, his second consecutive event win dating to an NHRA national win in 2011 in Las Vegas.
“It’s a Cinderella story,” Cowie said. “We didn’t even expect to run the race. We were just going to try to license and see how the body felt and we decided to enter and then we were the No. 1 qualifier. Just to go rounds, I can’t say enough for the guys that work for us.”
One night Cowie and a friend were leaving downtown Nashville when he was struck by a car. He was thrown 100 feet and over a bridge railing 30 feet down onto a road below.
The injuries probably should have killed him.
“They never thought I’d make it when I came into the emergency,” said Cowie, the 2007 event winner at Woodburn. “Basically they were going to amputate my right leg right away. I had a broken back, broken neck, broken shoulder, you name it I broke it. I’m lucky to be alive.”
After more than a dozen surgeries and five days per week of physical therapy, Cowie has a hard time walking, but getting back in a race car was part of his motivation to get better.
There are physical challenge he had to overcome to drive the car and he thinks he will get better with practice.
“I thought I was done,” Cowie said. “I really didn’t think I would be physically fit to be back in the car. As time went, I got stronger and stronger and thought I would give it a shot.”
After qualifying in the No. 1 spot with a best pass of 5.334 seconds at 269.78 seconds, he lined up and took out defending event champion Gregg Lawrence of Salem in the first round.
Lawrence let off part-way down the track and finished in 6.08, 189.75 compared with Cowie’s strong 5.37, 268.73.
In the semifinals, Cowie ran 5.419, 266.03 to beat Ray Martin, who defeated Garrett Bateman in the first round, and moved on to the finals.
In the other semifinal, Chris Demke defeated hometown driver Joey Severance of Woodburn to earn the right to face Cowie.
Demke ran a blazing 5.38, 271.00 and Severance experienced engine problems and had to coast to the finish in 6.775, 108.04.
“Broke the lifter first qualifying pass here,” said Severance, who beat Duane Shields in the first round. “The next one, a fuel line came off and it backfired. And the next one the regulator messed up and it backfired. We’re not sure why that one did it.
“Eventually we’ll have everything changed. That will be good.”
Although Demke had run faster in the semifinals than Cowie, Cowie wasn’t concerned. He’s come back from bigger deficits recently.
In the finals Cowie and Demke had identical 0.054 reaction times, but Cowie ran 5.411, 267.37 to beat Demke’s 5.439, 268.73 and Cowie won by approximately 11 feet.
“Honestly, it’s been such a great weekend we just said let’s just see what happens,” Cowie said. “We got the win light.”
In the fastest field of Top Alcohol Funny Cars in NHRA Northwest Division history, No. 7 qualifier John Lombardo Jr. defeated No. 8 qualifier Jay Payne in the finals with a 5.701, 260.49 against Payne’s 5.755, 257.87.
Karl Hart of Woodburn won the Pro bracket, running a 13.54 in the finals on his 13.43 dial-in.
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