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Words and photos by Ian Tocher
6/22/05

eorge Howard has raced Pro Mods as a driver, won an NHRA “Wally” as a Pro Stock team owner, and staged countless races as a track owner. His greatest impact in drag racing, though, has to be as a promoter.

Howard is the creator of the B&M Racer Appreciation Series and his unique BTE Million-Dollar Bracket Race (Sep. 22-25, at Memphis) provides the largest single-day payoff in drag racing, with more than $265,000 going to the winner last year. Additionally, he’s been involved with the Outlaw Racing Street Car Association (ORSCA) and on July 2-3, will make history again with the 10th annual Rocket City Nationals, where Top Fuelers will battle over the eighth mile at Huntsville Dragway, which Howard purchased in 1995. He also owns Bama Dragway, near Birmingham.

After losing his wife, Reba, to cancer early this year, Howard temporarily scaled back his racing commitments, but now appears ready for new challenges. Drag Racing Online recently caught up with Howard at his trackside office early in June.

First of all, George, you have our sympathy over the loss of your wife. How are you feeling now?

Howard: Well, I’m just taking it one day at a time. We would’ve been married 34 years April 17, so I still ain’t used to it, but it’s a little easier than it was yesterday. It’s going to take some time. You know, I won’t ever get over it, but maybe I’ll get used to it a little better. It’s different; a lot different, to be honest with you, but I know her and she’d tell me, ‘Don’t sit around and mope and get out to work,’ so that’s what I’m trying to do.

You say she’d tell you not to mope, but her illness and passing really seemed to affect your enthusiasm for racing, at least for a while.

Howard: To be fair to the racers and to the business side of things I needed somebody else to take over things and run with it because you can’t do anything in business or life if your heart’s not in it. My thoughts were with my wife, not with the racers, so I just kind of walked away from everything but my million-dollar race and my track at Huntsville. So, for the last couple of years I haven’t done any outside events.

You’re trying something new this year, though, with the eighth-mile Top Fuel race at Huntsville.

Howard: Yeah, I’m really fired up about that. I just wanted to do something different; I wanted to do it because no one else has ever done it. And I wanted to pay the biggest payday for Top Fuel, too.

I’ve had match races with John Force at Huntsville on three different occasions, Whit Bazemore, Shirley Muldowney, Bob Gilbertson, a lot of the pros, but I wanted to do a race with actual eliminations and I wanted to do it with the baddest hot rods in the world and
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that’s Top Fuel, you know? So I talked to [DRO publisher] Jeff Burk about it and we started out with $40,000 to win and it wasn’t getting any attention. So I told Jeff, ‘I’ve got something that’ll get their attention: $101,000 to win.’

And NHRA has agreed to recognize an eighth-mile national record at this thing, which would be the first eighth-mile record ever in Top Fuel. They like the idea so well that they plan to adopt it and from the first national event after our Fourth of July race, if someone breaks the record at Huntsville it’ll become the new national record. That’s what [NHRA Director] Bill Holt from Division 2 said, that Graham Light and the powers that be want to do, so this is going to be ground breaking and I feel a little responsible for that maybe happening.








 

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