Howard back on track; runner-up at Atlanta. Hampton, GA (3-9-03) - Shelby Howard has a lot to smile about. After a rough outing in the season-opening Daytona, the 17-year-old Howard and his ...
Howard back on track; runner-up at Atlanta.
Hampton, GA (3-9-03) - Shelby Howard has a lot to smile about. After a rough outing in the season-opening Daytona, the 17-year-old Howard and his #64 CIMCO Racing team entered Atlanta with one goal in mind -- to win. Although he fell one position short, the young Howard did grab a career-best superspeedway finish of 2nd.
After rains forced the cancellation of qualifying, the field was set based on 2002 points giving the #64 team a comfortable starting position of 4th.
Following the final practice session on Friday, Howard called for major changes on his Celadon Trucking-Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge, which turned out to be for the better once in race trim. "We changed everything but one or two things after Happy Hour," Howard said. "The car was pretty good after that; I was happy with it."
When the green flag dropped on the Atlanta ARCA 400, Frank Kimmel broke out to a distant lead on the remainder of the field. Howard quickly battled and gained position over 19- year-old Chase Montgomery during his attempt to gain ground on Kimmel.
Jason Jarrett and Kimmel appeared to be the two to beat early on. Late race problems for both cars almost played right into Howard's hands. Eventual race winner Mark Gibson battled Howard on his way to the front and took the lead after Jarrett began to fight a tight condition and leader Kimmel dropped two cylinders after leading 145 of the 162 lap event.
With Howard closing on Gibson, the only thing that kept him out of Victory Lane was the last set of Hoosier tires they put on the car under the final pit stop. "On that last stop, we put the wrong set of tires on. The air pressure was down so it took too long for them to come in," Howard said.
Howard added that if the tires would have been just a tick better, the win could have been his, considering how well his car was running. "At the end of the race, we were a half of a second faster than the #59. Our day should've been better, but we still had a good day."
After finishing just a little over two seconds behind Gibson, Howard commented that the long green flag runs were what helped keep him near the front all day. "The longer we ran, the better the car got. It took six or seven laps for the tires to come in. Our Dodge was extremely fast once that happened."
A little discouraged that he fell short of career victory number one, Howard is very pleased with the direction the season is now heading, due in part to the sponsor support he has. "We appreciate the support we've received so far this year. We want to thank Mr. Carl Beck of Beck Dodge for being here in person. Beck Dodge came on board as an associate sponsor this year and they have been great. We also had Celadon Trucking and Mack Trucks riding along this weekend. We still have an empty hood (no primary sponsor), but we're hoping something will come through before too long," Howard said.
After finishing fifth in points in his first full season in the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2002, Shelby Howard's 2003 title chase will continue on April 11th when the series visits the concrete 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway.
To learn more about Shelby Howard and his CIMCO Racing team, visit www.ShelbyHoward.com.