Posted by: pitzoom admin on Jan 10, 2011
Pueblo, Colorado's Ronny McDowell was a Southern-Colorado stock car racing legend of epic proportions....no exaggeration. In fact, McDowell's racing accomplishments were often compared to the proclaimed winningest short-track driver in the country at that time, Wisconsin's, Dick Trickle. McDowell won hundreds (maybe 1,000's, no kidding) of main-events at Pueblo's Beacon Hill Speedway, Colorado Springs' Pikes Peak Speedway, Raceway Park, CSIS, and the Colorado Turf Club Speedway (what became the Pikes Peak International Speedway), and at other Colorado race tracks over the course of an almost 30-year driving career.
I've seen a lot of amazing cars and drivers in the over 35-years I've been watching all kinds of auto racing, but I honestly don't think I ever witnessed anything more impressive than Ronny McDowell getting his little Camaro around Beacon Hill Speedway, in Pueblo....no kidding. He was absolutely amazing at this tiny 1/5th mile, converted go-kart track, that had corners about as wide as the driveway in front of the typical suburban house.
Ronny McDowell won most of his races driving the Chevy stock cars owned and built by Jim Willy of Colorado Springs. Occasionally, if you were driving south on I-25 near the Highway-24 overpass in Colorado Springs, you could look down into the CITY GLASS lot and see the yellow #119 Camaro sitting there....CITY GLASS COMPANY was an early sponsor.
McDowell wasn't a frequent visitor to Denver's Englewood Speedway, Century-21 Raceway, or Lakeside Speedway. But, but when he did compete up in NorCol, he was always competitive. Ronny first raced a white 1957 #19 Ford 2-door sedan on the flat-dirt 1/2-mile at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in the early-1960's, where he could not be beat.
Later in the 1960's, McDowell had a black 1957 T-Bird that he raced a Beacon Hill....yes, it was a kool and sinister looking run-what-cha-brung stocker. In the meantime, McDowell was racing every Wednesday night in a 1957 Chevy at Pikes Peak Speedway which was located out by Peterson Air Field...and, usually winning about every night there too!
In the late 1960's, he teamed-up with Jim Willy, and a legendary race-team was born. I don't think Ronny ever lost a race on Sunday nights at Beacon Hill....EVER....although, he must have lost a main-event race at some point.
McDowell won so many races that he developed a hero/villian persona with the local stock car fans, all in "good-fun", of course...very much like the late Dale Earnhardt did in NASCAR. McDowell was both cheered, and booed, and it made for a great show at the race track! Of course, there were times he got lotsa help from track Management that wanted McDowell, the local hero, to win. Like, for instance, the time McDowell's Camaro got into a wreck at Beacon Hill with another car that left his front suspension broken. So, the crowd in the grandstands contently waited for 20-minutes while Jim Willy's crew repaired #119 right on the track. Why, yes, Ronny did win the feature race again that night, why do you ask?
Another memorable night at a small-town bull-ring stock car track. In the early 1970's, Jim Willy bought a Bobby Allison chassis that had a white 1969 Chevelle body. McDowell drove this car at bigger tracks in Denver, and the Midwestern United States, with lotsa success, including the track record at Denver's Century 21 Raceway for a time. When asphalt racing in Northern-Colorado kinda came to a screeching halt in the late-1970's, we lost track of Ronny's career. Although, no-doubt, he was still winning races in So-Col. In fact, one night on television, McDowell was the feature on ESPN's SPEEDWORLD when he was videotaped barrel-rolling his Camaro down the back-strech at Beacon Hill...he probably STILL won the feature that night.
In the 1980's, McDowell was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame for his astonishing winning record at the race track...the same place guys like John Elway of the Denver Broncos are honored!
Yes, Ronny McDowell was quite a race car driver....a true legend. His life came to a tragic end later in life, however I choose to remember him piloting the #119 to victory night after night, race after race.