Atlanta: Shelby Howard preview

Howard's strategy: forget Daytona, think Atlanta. Hampton, GA (3-4-03) -- With St. Patrick's Day coming soon, Shelby Howard might be tempted to go ahead and "celebrate green" this weekend. Not just on the track, but on his race car as well....

Howard's strategy: forget Daytona, think Atlanta.

Hampton, GA (3-4-03) -- With St. Patrick's Day coming soon, Shelby Howard might be tempted to go ahead and "celebrate green" this weekend. Not just on the track, but on his race car as well. Maybe the luck of the Irish is just what he needs. Green, the color almost no one in racing ever uses, might just do the trick especially at Atlanta Motor Speedway where another green car (2000 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte) has performed awfully well in the past.

Nevertheless, Howard will show up with the now familiar purple and neon yellow #64 Dodge for Saturday's ARCA 400. After being disappointed again this year with the outcome (37th place) of the season-opener in Daytona, the young driver will try to reverse his early season misfortune with a top finish at the 1.54-mile oval just south of Atlanta.

Circumstances were quite a bit different in 2002, but the 17-year-old was able to quickly turn things around with a solid performance at Atlanta after a bad break at Daytona. Howard enters the second race of the season this year with better equipment than he had last year when he finished 9th. Last season he had a different make and engine -- this year he brings a Dodge and an Ernie Elliott engine along with additional backing from Celadon Trucking, Beck Dodge, and Mack Trucks in the form of sponsorship.

"We've had pretty decent cars here in the past, but this year we've got the best car we've ever had," Howard said. "We worked hard and discovered a few things in our test a couple of weeks back that will really help us. We should be right up there this weekend. We'll just have to see what happens."

Howard knows it's way too early to be preoccupied with how far down the point standings he currently is. "We were bitten by the bad luck bug at Daytona, but we have to forget about that and act as if our season starts this weekend in Atlanta. We've got a lot of racing ahead of us. This was a top five team last year and there's no reason we can't be better this season. We just have to keep plugging away at it and we'll make up ground. We'll be alright."

The Atlanta ARCA 400 will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 8. PRN will also carry live radio coverage. The race will re-air on March 10 at 8 p.m. and March 11 at 1 a.m. on SPEED.

DRIVER APPEARANCE: Shelby will attend the Speedway Children's Charities spring reception at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, March 7. SPEED Channel's "Trackside" will be broadcasting live.

-shr-

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Shelby Howard