Cass Fowler: The Math Behind the Move to 602s

Cass Fowler: The Math Behind the Move to 602s

Cass Fowler started racing late models in 2008, at age 15, in the 604 division. He then worked his way up the ladder, eventually reaching the super level. In 2020, Fowler, who frequently ran limited late models (aka steelheads) at the time, came to a realization — moving into the 602 class might make more sense.

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“Most of the limited races we run here … it’s $700 to $800 to win a race,” Fowler, 29, of Acworth, Georgia. “In the 602s, the shocks don’t cost as much, the engine, the whole nine yards of it.”

Fowler outlined the costs. He said steelhead engines run $15,000 to $35,000, with rebuilds $6,500 to $13,000. A Chevrolet Performance 602 crate engine costs roughly $5,000 out of the box, but up to $10,000 fully dressed and blueprinted, with rebuilds around $2,500.

Supers, limiteds, and 604s have very few restrictions on shocks, with Fowler saying it’ll cost him anywhere between $3,500 used to $9,800 new for a complete set. Most 602 series require non-adjustable shocks, which run between $2,000 to $3,000.

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The tire bill also comes up cheaper to for Fowler.

“At most super shows I ran, I would burn down three tires a night,” said Fowler. “[With the] steelhead, two tires every night. [With the 602,] I can use the same four tires for four race nights. We save a lot of money on tires.”

Then, there are other cost savings to running a 602 when compared to a super.

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“Suspension parts don’t have to changed as frequently due to the abuse of 800-plus horsepower on the frame, ball joints, and rod ends,” Fowler said. “We saved about $15,000 alone in parts.”

Sure, the 602 classes near Fowler paid only nominally better than steelheads, $800 to $1,000 to win. However, some successful 602 late model racers have shown that they could make decent bank regardless.

“It was definitely tough to swallow,” said Fowler of when he faced the prospect of moving to the 602s after racing supers. “It took three to four years of five or six people in my inner circle [saying,] ‘Let’s go do this. This guy made $35,000 [racing 602s]. This guy made $40,000.’

“When I was running the limited and super races, we were not winning $10,000. We’re making max $7,500 to $12,000 a year, just doing it as a hobby. Making $500 start money. Running eighth place and getting $600.”

Fowler had raced some of the biggest names in supers, but 602s provided a different challenge.

“The cars are so even — it doesn’t matter how much money you spend,” Fowler said. “I’ve driven [a 602 late model] that’s $8,500 and one that’s $30,000. It seems like you would think with better parts, you could just take off. The engines keep everything so even.”

Fowler added that 602 racing has improved his driving.

“The biggest thing with the 602, you can’t scrub off any speed in the corners,” Fowler said. “You have to be smooth, lap after lap, and don’t make mistakes. It’s definitely got me more patient, too. I’ve gotten better with lapped traffic, trying to pass people.”

This year, Cass Fowler won 17 of the 28 events he entered in the 602 late model class. He won at some of the best-known tracks, too — Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. His success earned him some detractors.

“After all the winning I did, people started sending me messages anonymously,” Fowler said. “[They said]:

“[I’m] a cherry picker.

“I’m a sorry person to take a 2020 Longhorn [chassis] and race 602s.

“[With] my experience as a steelhead/super driver, I should be embarrassed to run 602s.

“I told them all the same thing — it was a financial decision.”

Perhaps, that’s what irks his naysayers the most. Cass Fowler won more money than he ever did in a year — to the tune of $33,000. Factor in the savings he incurred by racing 602s over limiteds, and Fowler may have had his most profitable year yet in racing.

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