Words and photos by Ian Tocher
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.
of all, George, you have our sympathy over the loss of your
wife. How are you feeling now?
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.
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,
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
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.