RPW Special: How iRacing & Creativity Gave Me My Drive Back; The Story Of Veteran John Buwalda
Column By: JOHN BUWALDA – BEL AIR, MD – My name is John Buwalda and I’m the owner of Jack Dowel Motorsports. Jack Dowel Motorsports is an eSports race team and small group of simulator builders that I started back in 2020.
In June of 2020, I received my medical retirement orders from the U.S. Army after 11 years of service. I served in Afghanistan as a Door-Gunner on the helicopter, and many MANY state-side missions. Everything from building aircraft back up after being shipped back home from overseas, tearing them down to go overseas.
In 2019, things were starting to go down-hill for me physically & mentally in a big way. It started at a training course I was attending. I re-aggravated a back injury from my time in Afghanistan. The moment I felt the pain, I knew exactly what it was, but I was older this time and I did not recover like I did the first time.
Shortly after, my mental health started to decline, made worse by the fact I lived on a base that had controlled detonations multiple times a day. (explosions)
The Army & VA (Veteran Affairs) took care of me and I received a medical retirement and a VA disability. However, taking my helicopters out of my life left a huge void.
It was suggested to me to find a hobby to invest time in, since I was going to be home a lot more. I always like cars and racing, so I decided to give Sim-Racing a try.
After a bit of research, I found iRacing and I knew that was the direction I wanted to take. People were using three monitors for peripheral view, adding custom equipment and doing all kinds of things I didn’t even know were possible.
I did so much research until I knew exactly what I wanted.
Once I got started and posted my first video on YouTube, the design was so different that it caught the attention of a NASCAR Cup Series driver, who personally contact me using the message feature on iRacing.
Shortly after that, I found three Silicon Motor Speedway (SMS) cars for sale. SMS was a NASCAR attraction in the early 2000’s that used ¾-scale NASCAR rides that rented time in to race against other people.
A renewed sense of purpose had been established within me. However, this time, I was able to work on my schedule.
The helicopters were very demanding machines and did not care if I was having a bad day, or having back pain. I’ve spent the next few years learning everything I could about these cars from building a race team, developing sponsorship proposals, building a social media presence, etc. I now host a weekly eSports league that follows the real life NASCAR Truck Series schedule, and support Xfinity & Cup Series sister leagues to complete NASCAR’s top three Series.
The eSports side of things is the fun part, but the simulator building side of the house is what I want to put my main focus on. I sold my car and bought a truck & trailer. This will be the first season that Jack Dowel Motorsports will be taking the first of three Silicon Motor Speedway cars out & about for people to enjoy once again.
This time, these cars have been updated to work with modern simulator software. With the assistance of our sponsors, there will be new features that the old version of the SMS cars never had.
I look forward to being a part of the racing community for years to come. Come enjoy the ride!