GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Walker Fowler

Tuesday Toolbox: Walker Fowler

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | 12:20 PM
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | 12:20 PM

This past weekend at the Powerline Park GNCC, reigning ATV XC1 champion Walker Fowler wrapped up his fourth consecutive XC1 title. The 25-year-old from Rogers, Ohio first started attracting attention as a youth racer, both on ATVs and bikes. When he went pro he decided to focus on ATV racing, and it appears that decision has paid off. I talked with Walker about his season, the possibility of catching up to some people on the career ATV XC1 title leaderboard and what advice he would give kids who want to someday be a top racer.

Walker Fowler's mechanic, Mark Notman, holds up the No. 1 jersey after his win at Powerline Park.
Walker Fowler's mechanic, Mark Notman, holds up the No. 1 jersey after his win at Powerline Park. Ken Hill

Hey Walker, congrats on wrapping up the 2018 ATV XC1 National Championship over the weekend! How does it feel?

Walker Fowler: It feels awesome. Winning at the highest level, regardless of who it is and what class, should always be viewed as a great achievement. Personally, and as a team, we are beyond excited for this championship. Even after the 4th one, the feeling continues to be the same as the first! 

Being from Ohio, was it especially nice to wrap up your championship at Powerline Park?

Two years ago, I also wrapped up the championship at Powerline Park, but did not win the race. It was cool to win the championship, but at the same time was a bummer to lose the race on the day we win the championship. So, this year to win both the race and championship at my home race was awesome with all my friends and family there as well as all the Ohio fans!

It looks like this has been a more difficult season for you than last year, at least on paper. Do you feel like you’ve been challenged more this season than last?

No doubt, this was one of the more challenging seasons I’ve had in a long time. One reason was that everyone was riding really well all season and kept the racing action close all the way to the checkered flag at nearly every race. It was never the same rider every weekend, so that was even more tough because each rider has a different style and race mentality to compete against, and you have to race differently against each racer. Another reason was that we also had some dumb luck and weird stuff happen this year. But that’s why it’s called racing and not winning! It was a season where one weekend our very best was a 5th, the next a 3rd, and the next a win. Last season just came so naturally - the wins just clicked off and we felt like they were easy. This season my team and I have worked twice as hard for half the results, but that’s how it works sometimes.  

Fowler high-fiving the fans at the start of the Snowshoe GNCC earlier this season.
Fowler high-fiving the fans at the start of the Snowshoe GNCC earlier this season. Ken Hill

Even so, a season where you won more often than not is pretty impressive! Were there any really memorable moments this season, good or bad?

Running out of gas at the X-Factor finish line definitely stands out. That was one of those unique races where I’m not sure that exact situation will ever happen again. Nor do I want it to! (laughs) It was just another weird chain of events that came down to the crowd getting involved and helping push the machine to the finish, but making the mistake of pushing too far which resulted in a penalty. Even with the penalty though, it was awesome to see fans wanting to get involved and helping me while risking life and limb in the process. 

Yeah, that whole situation was both unfortunate and inspiring all at the same time…. So, with this making title number four you’re currently 4th on the all-time XC1 ATV career titles list. Chris Borich has 6, Barry Hawk has 7, and Bill Balance tops the list with 9. Do you hope to break some of those records over the next several years?

I’m going to keep racing as long as I am healthy and the racing can pay for itself. I don’t want to go broke to go racing, that’s not fair to myself or my family. I love racing, but to do it right at the Pro level it’s very expensive. With that being said, I’ve dreamed of being the best ATV racer ever, and after 4 championships we are at least still headed down a path to making that dream a reality. With this championship, I got a contract extension from GBC so I for sure will be racing through 2020 assuming I stay healthy.  I just hope the manufacturers want to continue to build ATV’s and aftermarket parts and keep the sport of ATV racing alive.

You had a really successful youth racing career here with GNCC, winning both bike and ATV youth titles. Did you ever imagine back then that you would be where you are today?

We all want and wish to make it to the front of the pack in Pro class, it’s just much easier said than done. I started with ATV’s before I got on bikes, and while I did well on both I did enjoy the ATV more and I felt like I always could get better and wanted to be better. On the motorcycle I just got to the point where I stopped having fun and wasn’t progressing beyond A class speed so when I had to decide on which I wanted to do, The ATV always just felt right.

Walk Fowler is all smiles after earning his fourth consecutive GNCC XC1 ATV National Championship.
Walk Fowler is all smiles after earning his fourth consecutive GNCC XC1 ATV National Championship. Ken Hill

Looking back it definitely appears you made the right choice - but do you think we’ll ever see you on a bike at a GNCC, just to throw everyone a curveball?

Maybe if I ever get another bike, given that I do not currently own one and have not for a while. I’m not against the idea, but if I were to do that, I would need to wrap the ATV championship up earlier than I did this year, similar to what happened last season. That way I would have some time to ride the bike and get comfortable on it, since I wouldn’t even practice on the bike unless the ATV championship was already won.

Speaking of other pursuits, have you done much UTV racing this season?

Not nearly as much as I would have liked to, but there’s only so many weekends in a year for everything I want to do (laughs). We started the GNCC UTV racing season off really well with a podium and a fourth. Unfortunately, the next two rounds did not go well, we had an 18th overall and a DNF, taking us out of championship contention for the year. But this past weekend we were able to start from row two and get a 5th place which I’m very pleased with, and that was a good enough finish to move us from 7th to 4th overall for the season. I would love to get a podium finish for my fantastic UTV sponsors at our season finale in 2 weeks at the Ironman in Indiana! We’ve done a few local races as well this year with a few podium finishes so I would say in our second season in the car we’ve come a long way.

Do you have any words of advice or inspiration for kids who might want to someday follow in your footsteps?

You got to want it! My parents were always willing to help me reach my goals if I was willing to do well in school, be respecting of them and my equipment, and put forth the effort to ride and train to be the best even at a younger age. If I was not willing to do those things, they weren’t willing either. I think that mentality was a great skill to learn since sponsorships are handled in a similar fashion. You get what you put in.

Fowler making his way through the Ohio mud to earn his sixth win of the season.
Fowler making his way through the Ohio mud to earn his sixth win of the season. Ken Hill

Let’s end with a fun question: what is one interesting, non-racing related thing about you? 

I spend almost half of the year in Florida! I was always full-time in Ohio until I graduated high school, then after that I was kind of a gypsy (not really, but I went all over to ride if there was a place to keep my machine and a bed to sleep in). But then my father purchased a home in Florida and I bought some property to be able to ride and train during the cold months. Another reason I spend so much time down there is due to the fact I met my girlfriend Alisa in Florida as well. So, I spend a lot more time there then I ever imagined I would. It’s been a fun and unique lifestyle change, and my sand riding abilities have gotten much better on both my ATV and mountain bike!

Who would you like to thank?

I definitely have to thank my family for enduring all the years of racing, it’s not for the weak that’s for sure and they’ve sacrificed more than I’ll ever know to give me this opportunity. I also want to thank my mechanic Mark Notman for being not only a world class mechanic but a darn good friend of mine. This program is a large reflection of his work. Definitely have to thank my girlfriend Alisa (sorry for weeks leading up to Championship stress) and the Piper family as well for keeping me in check while I’m in Florida and helping keep the machines running when Mark can’t be there! 

Fowler has also been racing UTVs, even earning a podium finish at round one in Big Buck.
Fowler has also been racing UTVs, even earning a podium finish at round one in Big Buck. Ken Hill

I would also like to thank all of my sponsors, both for ATV and UTV racing!

2018 ATV sponsors: WFR Racing, Yamaha, GBC, FLY Racing, Lonestar Racing, MXP, Fox, FMF Hill International Truck, Fasst, Goldspeed Wheels, Hinson Racing, Alpinestars, Atlas Brace, SSI Decals, Tireballs, Precision, AntiGravity Batteries, WebCams, Works Connection, Fuel Customs, Vortex Ignition, Moto Seat, Scott Goggles, Intense Fabrication, Waynesburg Yamaha, Cycra, Cometic Gasket, CV4, IMS, ODI grips, DP brakes, Gytr, Maxima, CryoHeat, D&V, VP racing fuels, BNR, Grenade Coatings, RCP, Carbsport and Blu Cru. 

2018 UTV Sponsors: Weller Racing, Yamaha, GBC, Alpinestars, Fly Racing, Fox Suspension, Hill International, Tireballs, Hinson Racing, AntiGravity Batteries, SSI Decals, Intense Fabrication, Factory UTV skids, Scott Goggles, DP Brakes, GYTR, VP Racing Fuel, CryoHeat, Maxima, Cometic Gasket, bLU cRU and D&V Trucking