Throughout the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, we’re highlighting veterans who work within the racing series, whether for Chip Ganassi Racing, INDYCAR or other racing teams.
This week we’re highlighting Andrew Bowman, the garage/pit lane flagman at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) for the entire race season there. His wife, Jamie Lynn, is a U.S. Army Nurses Corps veteran and serves as the camp host for the employee campground at IMS.
Bowman has been a member of The American Legion for more than 30 years, currently as a member of Speedway Post 500 just across the street from IMS. Bowman served a combined 30 years in the U.S. Army and National Guard before retiring in 2012 as a first sergeant. He spoke with American Legion Social Media Manager Steven B. Brooks about what it’s like working at a track he came to as a child, how that job feels a bit like still being in the military, and the pride he feels in seeing The American Legion involved in INDYCAR via its partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Steven B. Brooks: How did you end up working at IMS?
Andrew Bowman: I got connected with (IMS Program Manager Hannah Huffman), who was my recruiter at a job fair. She recruited me to be a yellow shirt at the track. I started out working the south pit gates, and I did that for the first three years. And then promoted up to a gold badge supervisor position at Gasoline Alley and Pit Lane, and I’ve been there ever since. My wife and I come in with our motorhome to the employee campground in April every year. So, we’re here for the entire season, and we don’t usually get back on the road until late October.
Question: You grew up in Northern Indiana. Were you one of those kids that grew up following, at least during the month of May, open-wheel auto racing?
Bowman: My dad is a retired minister, and I have five brothers. When we were little itty-bitty kids, he used to drive the church bus and take the church youth group to the time trials every year. The month of May was all about the Indy 500. Several times he would drag us kids along – well, we weren’t dragged, we begged to go – and he would bring myself, my older brother and the one next down from me on the church bus with all of the youth group. I was 5 years old, 1965, the first time I came to the track. We were little kids, and we were clinging to the fence in Pit Lane watching cars take off and do all their practicing and qualifying. Once you get those fumes in your lungs and get the feel of the vibration from cars taking off and peeling out and all that stuff, you never get it out of your system.
Question: Then what’s it been like getting a job like this?
Bowman: Working at the track … kind of fills the gap or the void of not being in the military anymore. The military is such a tight-knit group of people. You’re brothers and sisters. Sometimes you’re closer than family. I feel a lot of that same type of connection with the people that I work with at the track, the people that I help protect at the track. Our primary job is keeping people safe and directing traffic and customer service and all those types of things. We interact with the fans. We interact with the teams and the drivers and other workers. It’s such a large group of people, and it makes you feel like your family has expanded.
Question: You’ve been a member of The American Legion for more than 30 years. What’s it like seeing your organization that front and center in the top open-wheel racing series in this country, and on some of the top driver’s cars in this series?
Bowman: Because I’ve been so connected with INDYCAR and NASCAR over the years, all the way through my military career I came home for races, no matter where I was serving. And the times I couldn’t attend in person I was glued to the television set. I joined The American Legion shortly after I enlisted in the military, and throughout my military career I stayed connected with the Legion by being a local member wherever I happened to be located. It’s always been a big deal to me, and anytime I see someone with a Legion hat, vest, jacket or a pin … I always try to reach out to them and acknowledge them and thank them, because we have that lifelong connection of being in the military. So (The American Legion being in INDYCAR), it’s a big deal. Sporting events, especially racing, attract a lot of military people. A lot of the crowd is attracted to patriotism, the military and things like that. The way that The American Legion helps support servicemembers in need and in trouble doesn’t go unrecognized. It’s a big deal.