NOTEBOOK: New season at Bowman Gray kicks off with prestigious Hayes Jewelers 200

Of all the short tracks operating throughout the United States, none have a reputation quite like Bowman Gray Stadium.

Since first opening to the public in 1949, the quarter-mile bullring has entertained generations of fans with close-quarter racing and hot tempers that regularly spill over onto the track. The intense nature of the weekly shows has led Bowman Gray to be colloquially known by drivers and fans as ‘The Madhouse.‘

Amidst the countless on-track rivalries is a rich racing culture that has seen many NASCAR legends take home checkered flags. The NASCAR Cup Series competed at Bowman Gray 29 times between 1958-71, with Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, Rex White and Glen Wood being amongst the winners.

RELATED: Watch the Bowman Gray Stadium opener on FloRacing

Today, racing at Bowman Gray is headlined by the renowned Modified division. Many drivers have cemented themselves into Bowman Gray lore in the last 75 years by outlasting the track and their fellow competition to become one of the select few to earn a Modified championship.

Burt Myers during the NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts Weekly Series at Dominion Raceway on September 18, 2021 in Woodford, Virginia. (Parker Michels-Boyce/NASCAR)
Burt Myers during the NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts Weekly Series at Dominion Raceway on September 18, 2021 in Woodford, Virginia. (Parker Michels-Boyce/NASCAR)

More recently, the Modified division at Bowman Gray Stadium has been dominated by two people, Tim Brown and Burt Myers.

Brown‘s first championship in 1996 set a commanding precedent that would persist into the 21st Century. No other driver has more Modified titles at Bowman Gray than Brown with 12 overall, but Myers follows closely behind him with 10 of his own.

The efficiency Brown and Myers have enjoyed during their respective careers has also placed them atop the all-time win list in Bowman Gray‘s Modified class. Brown’s 98 victories leads all drivers in Bowman Gray’s long history, all while Myers currently sits second on the win list with 91.

Despite taking home a combined seven checkered flags last year, neither Brown nor Myers managed to tack on another Bowman Gray championship to their impressive resumes. Both veterans are back at the facility for another season, each determined to best the other for the title following a long, grueling summer.

Saturday‘s Hayes Jewelers 200 will be the first opportunity for Brown and Myers to kickstart a prospective championship campaign. Myers enters the endurance event as the defending winner, but Brown is seeking to take his first season-opening victory at Bowman Gray since 2013.

With NASCAR taking over the lease at Bowman Gray this year, a new era at the facility will begin with Saturday’s with the Hayes Jewelers 200, the longest and most prestigious race on the calendar. The Modifieds will contest 200 laps around Bowman Gray’s quarter-mile, with the Sportsman, Street Stock and Stadium Stock divisions also on the docket.

Brandon Ward, driver of the #04; Kevin Powell\
Brandon Ward, driver of the #04; Kevin Powell\

Brandon Ward ready to defend Bowman Gray Modified title

After several years of trying, Brandon Ward finally broke through to join an elite list of Bowman Gray Modified champions at the end of the 2023 season.

Ward brings one of the more diverse backgrounds to the Bowman Gray driver roster, having won races in Modifieds, Super Late Models, the USAR Pro Cup Series and the NASCAR Goody‘s Dash Series. During the mid-2010s, Ward and his team New Day Motorsports elected to test their luck in Bowman Gray‘s Modified division.

It would not take long for Ward‘s versatility to carry over into Modified competition at the Madhouse. His first Bowman Gray checkered flag came during the 2017 season finale. He’s followed that up with six more victories, including a stellar four-win campaign in 2019.

Although he is no stranger to finding Victory Lane at Bowman Gray, Ward earned his maiden track championship without a trip to Victory Lane. Now armed with momentum following last year‘s championship, Ward is ready to defend his title by earning victories while also maintaining the consistency he displayed in 2023.

The primary obstacle standing in the way of Ward repeating will be the two elder statesmen of Bowman Gray‘s Modified class in Brown and Myers. A win in the Hayes Jewelers 200 on Saturday could provide Ward the necessary jolt to assume early control over the Modified division.

Riley Neal
Riley Neal

Riley Neal carries family tradition of success into Modified division

The Neal family has a long, proud tradition of success at Bowman Gray Stadium, with family patriarch Tommy Neal having won multiple titles in the track’s Sportsman and Stadium Stock classes.

Having already enjoyed the privilege of racing alongside his grandson Riley, Tommy will now get to see the youngest member of the Neal family advance from the Sportsman division to Modifieds in pursuit of a track championship.

Riley has already become embedded with the vibrant culture at Bowman Gray, tallying five victories in the Sportsman class since the 2022 season. During the most recent offseason, Riley was busy competing in Modified events around the Southeast to prepare for his transition into Bowman Gray‘s top division.

Riley now has the chance to compete alongside many of the same legends that have been synonymous with efficiency inside the Madhouse. This step forward also brings many challenges for Riley, who will have to fight for every position in events ranging from twin 25-lap features to 200-lap endurance events.

With the first race, the Hayes Jewelers 200, serving as the longest race of the year, Riley will look to gain experience and learn from the veterans so he can find his comfort zone going into the summer.


  • Along with the 200-lap Modified feature, the season-opening Hayes Jewelers 200 at Bowman Gray Stadium will include a 40-lap Sportsman race to accompany the traditional 20-lap and 15-lap race lengths for the Street Stocks and Stadium Stocks, respectively.

  • The first green flag of Bowman Gray‘s 2024 season is set to wave at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. Tickets for adults cost $12, while children between the ages of six and 11 can get in for $2. Any child five years old or younger has free admission into the track.

  • FloRacing is set to provide live flag-to-flag coverage of every race at Bowman Gray.