(Lead photo credit: CompetitionPlus.com) – Every sport has its legends, its influencers, its gamblers, and its innovators. George Howard embodied all of those things and more during a career that saw him quite literally change the way the sport operated. Sadly, we lost George a few days ago and the drag racing world has been remembering the man who elevated virtually every track he operated and each element of the sport he touched.
From the creation and growth of the famed “Million” to the mainstream introduction of what we know know as “big buck” bracket racing to what may well live in the annals of drag racing as the craziest top fuel match race of all time, the guy just did it all. Oh, did we mention that he was also one of the guys who helped to foster and grow the ever exploding world of small tire drag racing competition as well?
More than a decade ago at Huntsville Dragway, a track that many people associate Howard with closest, he put on the Rocket City Nationals. The headline of the event was an open field top fuel race that had a purse of over $100,000. Mind you, this race was being held at a small eighth mile facility, not some mega-plex somewhere. Jammed to the gills all weekend long, some of the most well known racers in the sport were at the race. Clay Millican won the event and I can remember following live updates being posted on the web as there was no such thing as live streaming at that point and the iPhone was years away from release. It was amazing that he pulled it off but anyone that knew George would tell you that things like the Rocket City Nationals were what got his blood pumping.
He loved drag racing and he loved taking chances on the sport by pushing boundaries. Whether it was with big payouts, fledgling classes, or other variables, Howard lived for the sport. He left us far too soon. National Dragster’s Kevin McKenna wrote a truly awesome piece on George that you should check out. It outlines his whole career and its greater impact on the sport.