NASCAR superfan fills room in Rutherford County home with racing souvenirs and memorabilia

NASCAR superfan fills room in Rutherford County home with racing souvenirs and memorabilia

Walter Bowen holds a Richard Petty miniature car from his NASCAR collection on display in his Rutherford County home. ANGIE MAYES

Walter Bowen examines hundreds of NASCAR artifacts in a room in his Rutherford County home.

A racing enthusiast from a young age, he traveled across the country to attend races, collect autographs and acquire memorabilia.

“I saw my first race in the 1980s at the (Nashville) Fairgrounds when they were running the Music City 420,” he said. “I went into the stands to get autographs and I didn’t even have a piece of paper to write autographs on. I tore a check out of the checkbook and said, “Will you sign this?” and Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty and others signed it.

He said he “has been collecting for 40 years, and some for 50 years. At the time, it was only on the radio. We could only watch two races a year on television: Daytona and Talladega.

“So, I started collecting and it got out of hand, as you can see from this room.”

The 20-by-30-foot room (about the size of a three-car garage) in Bowen’s home contains about 1,200 objects (Bowen’s estimate), including autographed photos, 74 plastic model car kits , truck trailer kits, T-shirts and approximately 150 model cars and NASCAR transporters in one-sixty-fourth, one-thirty-fifth and one-twenty-fourth scale.

The former real estate agent owns Coca-Cola and Sundrop bottles with runners on them. He also collected figurines, stand-ups, glasses, newspapers and programs from every Cup race he attended.

He even has a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise that promotes Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He has traveled the entire NASCAR map, from Daytona to Las Vegas. He and his wife, Martha, attend races at Nashville Superspeedway where they have seats right at the finish line, he said.

“I love racing,” he said. “I took part in my first race in 1972. We were so poor that I couldn’t even afford to take part. We stood near the fence and listened to them pass. And I was hooked. I started listening to the radio.

“Every weekend I would work at a market, turn on the radio and listen to the racing as customers came in and out. Once they started doing them on TV, I never missed a race. If I did, I would record it on tape.

Bowen competed in three races at Smyrna Raceway, he said, but he “got divorced and my father-in-law sold the car for $20.”

He attended driving schools at Nashville Superspeedway and Orlando Speedway and said, “I never told them I had an artificial leg. I don’t think they would have let me drive. I asked them how hard I should brake, and they said, “just as you enter the pits.” I said “great.” I went 124.3 miles per hour on a 125 mile per hour track.

“My wife said, ‘If he gets killed here, we’re going to drag him out on the highway because my insurance won’t cover that.’ »

He knows wrecks are part of the sport and says, “Wrecks don’t bother me. One time at Talladega there was a 17 car pileup, we were right up front, it happened right back, all we saw were these 17 wreckers who transported these damaged cars.

He was at Daytona the day Dale Earnhardt Sr. died.

“It was a horrible journey home,” he recalls. “We cried all the way home.”

He said he “saw a lot of great runners come and go. I hated when JD McDuffee was killed. We have lost so many good car drivers. Davey Allison. Neil Bonnet. Alan Kulwicki. All in crazy situations.

So what does a 73-year-old do with all his NASCAR memorabilia? Bowen wants to sell it. He is asking $10,000 for the entire collection. He said he had tried Facebook Marketplace, but not elsewhere. He will only sell it in one package, but admitted he hasn’t had much luck.

“People recommended I take it to the Nashville Fairgrounds to try to sell it,” he said. “How do we package all this up and display it there? They couldn’t see everything. Maybe I waited too long to sell this thing. I had posters and other items under the beds and in drawers. I started to pull it out.

Bowen said Rutherford County made a big mistake in not having the Superspeedway, located in Wilson County, just a few miles from the county line.

“They thought it was a redneck sport, but it’s a multibillion-dollar sport,” he said. Yet when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died, that was 30% of the crowd they lost.

He said of teams: “If you don’t have millions of dollars, you can’t race.” It started as a redneck sport. You “perform what you brought”. If you’re caught cheating, you’re caught. Richard Petty will tell you the same thing. The idea of ​​getting in a car and going 199 miles an hour two or three inches from someone’s bumper. You can’t tell me he’s not an athlete.

To contact Bowen, email [email protected].