Jason Fowler of Scarborough, a son of a well-known auto racing family who became a local champion, died Friday in a crash off Burnham Road in Gorham.
Fowler, 31, was driving a Buick Regal about 2:30 a.m. when excessive speed apparently caused him to lose control on a curve, police said.
Fowler was thrown from the car, which hit trees and burst into flames. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators will conduct blood tests, as they do for every serious crash.
Dozens of friends in the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway community expressed condolences to Fowler’s family, remembering him as a handsome, thoughtful man who was a good friend.
Dick Fowler, a well-known race driver, said his son was born into the sport, started racing when he was 11 and had success as a younger man until illness cut short his racing career.
“He started out go-carting. He was very successful in that and moved up to the late-model series at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, then up to pro stock,” his father said.
“He just had a feel for it. You have to have the knowledge of the race car inside and out. … He ended up enjoying working on them.”
Jason Fowler’s brother Michael, three years younger, also has succeeded on the track. Dick Fowler said the happiest day of his life was when his two sons won races, in different classes, on Father’s Day.
Andy Cusack, who owns the speedway, recalled Jason Fowler fondly as a product of a racing family and someone who could easily mix with any of the groups at the track.
“Everybody really liked him. He had a real easy demeanor about him,” Cusack said. “He was a nice, smooth, quiet young man.”
Jason Fowler’s championships included the Sport Series at Beech Ridge in 1999. More recently, he sold cars at his father’s business, Main Street Auto in South Portland.
In 2001, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which ended his racing career, his father said.
“It was very tough,” Dick Fowler said. “We all struggled with it for 11 years.”
He said the illness could make his son moody and nervous. This week, Jason saw his doctor and had his medication changed, his father said.
“He could never find the right solution, and plus he was a young kid out with his buddies a lot,” his father said.
Alcohol and the medication could be an unhealthy mix, he said.
Dick Fowler said he saw his son Thursday. Jason’s moods were influenced greatly by the seasons, and he complained about how cold it was getting, especially Thursday.
Fowler was popular and fun to be around, said some of the many friends who wrote on his Facebook page and that of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
One, Lisa Napolitano, said: “He was a wonderful, dear friend that always would put a smile on someone’s face whether he knew you or not.”
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: