Certain man-machine associations come easy in sprint car racing. Bob East is known for building pavement midgets, Keith Kunz for building dirt sprint cars.
Butch Dowker stands out in the world of winged pavement sprint cars, and the photography before your eyes shows one of the talented designer's latest creations. The sprinter features a number of significant changes that have made it the car to beat in the Auto-Value Super Sprints.
In fact, with veteran Gary Fedewa at the wheel, this cold, black No. 42 won four out of its first six races in 2001. Then, during the contest to set a world's half-mile record at Winchester (Indiana) Speedway for $5,000, the Dowker hauler came within a couple thousandths of getting the job done. The 2001 season ended with Fedewa driving the car to the Auto-Value Super Sprints championship.
The machine has quite a different look than a standard pavement sprinter, appearing to be much longer and sleeker.. In fact, you might guess that it's like a USAC Silver Crown car with a wing.
The car is about halfway to a Silver Crown car with a wheelbase of 92 inches, some 4 inches longer than the normal 88-inch competition. Dowker says the extra length provides more stability at speed on larger tracks.
Then there's that longer and lower hood that provides a subtle aerodynamic advantage, cutting a smaller hole through the air. The hood design is also interesting because there are two openings for two different purposes. The front opening helps cool the radiator, while a long channel in the hood center directs air to the rear opening for engine cooling.
The cage height is about 3 inches lower, which also brings down the upper wing height. By the way, Dowker designed the nifty dual-rod slider mechanism, which he says is stronger and lighter.
The car also sits lower to the ground, with only about 1.5 inches of clearance. Dowker says that arrangement provides a big aero plus when running down the straightaways.
Fedewa says he also sits slightly farther back in the car, a location that suits him just fine. "It's a really comfortable place for me," he says. "But the big advantage for me is that I can see both of the front wheels from where I sit, which I consider very important. That's very rare for a modern pavement sprinter."
Not often do you see the same engine and chassis manufacturer in the same car, but that is definitely the situation here. Sitting under that stylish hood is a Dowker 410 dry-sump engine pumping out 820 horses at 7,600rpm. The engine sits 2 inches farther back than normal for vehicle weight balance.
"Believe me, at the big tracks, I can use all of that performance," Fedewa says. "And the engine has a ton of torque that also really helps."
The remainder of the powertrain consists of a Winters Quick-Change rear end. Dowker says the suspension is pretty standard for these cars with Hypercoil Springs and advanced gas shocks. The shocks, though, have three upper mounting locations.
We can't list many other manufacturers' names for other parts and pieces because Dowker fabricated most of them himself, including the dry-sump oil tank and power-steering reservoir, along with arms, tubes, front hubs, and just about everything else. The same situation exists with many components of the engine.
Along those lines, another nifty innovation is the mounting of the rear panhard bar to a special Dowker adjustable mounting mechanism on the rear end.
Facts and figures-wise, the car weighs about 1,290 pounds dry, with a 53 percent left-side weight and a 61 percent rear weight. The right-side off-set is 5 inches, but the complete powertrain is mounted on the centerline of the car.
Dowker's previous open wheel car building experience includes Indy cars, including the famous Jet Engineering machines of the early 1980s. He also fabricated the first speedy USAC roadster sprint cars of the late 1970s.
Since 1988, he has concentrated strictly on pavement sprint cars, and judging from the sweet technology and awesome performance of this car, he's doing very well.