SCC: HRPWorld.com Racing - Howie Liebengood interview

Vienna, VA -- Howie Liebengood is one of the rare drivers in the Grand-Am Cup who has been successful in both Open wheel and Sports Car Racing. In 2000, Howie had a career year winning the Sports Touring I Driver Championship. This season...

Vienna, VA -- Howie Liebengood is one of the rare drivers in the Grand-Am Cup who has been successful in both Open wheel and Sports Car Racing. In 2000, Howie had a career year winning the Sports Touring I Driver Championship. This season Howie has joined up with Will Nonnamaker and the HRPworld.com team to help them defend their championship. Beyond being a professional race car driver, Howie works to make a difference with tomorrow's next generation via the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

THE BASICS
Series - Grand-Am Cup Series
Class - Sports Touring II
Team - HRPWorld.com Racing
Car - #43 King Motorsports Acura <LI>Integra LS
Website - http://www.howieliebengood.com/
Date of Birth - March 28, 1969
Hometown - Vienna, VA
Birthplace - Manhattan, KS

RACING HIGHLIGHTS
2000 Motorola Cup Endurance Sports Touring I Driver Champion
9 Professional Race Wins

IN HIS OWN WORDS...

When did you begin driving?

Howie Liebengood: First, I have always been a fan of auto racing. My father grew up in Northern Indiana and he and my grandfather would always go to the Indianapolis 500. My father kept that tradition alive in his family so every May, my family makes a pilgrimage to Indianapolis to watch the Indy 500. I think that I have seen 22 Indianapolis 500 mile races.

By going to the 500, my family became big fans of auto racing. For many years, all I ever wanted to do was to race in the Indianapolis 500. I knew that I very much wanted to be around the sport but I really had no idea how to get involved into the world of motor racing.

However, when I checked into my dorm for my fist year at Purdue University, there were go-kart trophies in the lobby. Purdue University has a go-kart race called the Purdue Grand Prix. So when I was in college, I got involved in the Purdue Grand Prix go-kart race and twice competed in the event. Former Purdue Grand Prix winner and midget racer, Doug Wright, is who I credit with getting me behind the wheel of a race car. Doug took me under his wing and helped me with my endeavors with the Purdue Grand Prix and showed me how to get involved in motorsports.

What is your favorite thing about racing?

Liebengood: I don't think that there is one thing that is my favorite. There are so many things about racing that I enjoy. Just having the opportunity to race is a real blessing. I never thought that I would have the chance to race cars so I am extremely grateful for every opportunity that I have had to get behind the wheel.

What is the most challenging part of racing?

Liebengood: Without a doubt, funding! There are so many outstanding drivers that are on the outside of the fence looking in because the only thing that is holding them back is funding. Hitting a Major League baseball pitch is sometimes referred to as the "hardest thing to do in sports." But, I think that hardest thing is trying to secure adequate funding for motorsports. It doesn't matter what level you are competing, racing is very expensive and it takes serious funding to be able to compete and win. I am most grateful for Pennzoil's support throughout the years.

Which is your favorite track? Why?

Liebengood: My favorite tracks are Mosport Park and Sebring. Mosport is so challenging and so fast. Sebring is where I had my first professional race and I love the history of the track.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Liebengood: I am a huge sports fan. Schedule permitting, I like to watch sports and even go to some games. I follow the Washington Capitals in hockey, the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears in football, the Washington Wizards in basketball, and the Chicago Cubs in baseball, plus I root for the Purdue Boilermakers every chance I get. Go Purdue!

Plus, I like to spend time with my family and my girlfriend. I am a big believer that family is very important in a person life.

Do you have any superstitions?

Liebengood: Only that I always put my left glove on before my right glove.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your life and racing career?

Liebengood: There have been several folks that have been an influence on my life and racing. First, my family has been my biggest supporters. My parents have been the biggest positive influence on my racing and in my life. I am very blessed to have such wonderful parents. Plus, my brother and my sister are just great. I wish that we were able to spend more time together but we try and see each other as much as we can.

Usually, one of my folks attends the races. My mother really enjoys going to the race track. Many times you see drivers with their fathers at the track but for me, the majority of my races my mother has attended. It is very nice to have a family member present at the track and my mother spares no punches when she thinks that I am not doing a good job out on the track.

I know that my father would be at the track if his schedule permitted. However, he has a very heavy workload. He has accomplished so much in his professional career in government and the political arena. If I could accomplish an 1/8th of what he has accomplished, I would be very proud... he is my hero!

Further, my girlfriend, Carol, has been great. I am very fortunate to have found someone that is a big race fan and enjoys going to the track. She is very supportive and I just wish that she could make it to more races. She pitches in and helps the crew during the races plus, she is the best "deadwoman" for refueling.

In racing there have been many folks that have influenced my racing career. However, there are a few that have gone beyond the call of duty for me. Dennis Eade of Comprep is who I owe a lot to. Dennis taught me so much about racing and I will forever be grateful for his help and assistance.

My former Firestone Firehawk teammate, Doug Wright, has done so much for me. He taught me how to drive and to race. In addition, Doug taught me about the commercial side of the sport and to never give up. Former teammate, Scott Harrington, who is the fastest driver that I have ever been around, showed me that there is someone out there who loves the sport of racing just as much as I do. Besides being an extremely fast driver, Scott is a great historian of the world of auto racing. Plus, Andy Lally, who was my teammate in the championship winning Motorola Cup year, has such great enthusiasm and joy for racing that it is contagious.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Liebengood: The best piece of advice came from my parents who have said, "Just be true to yourself."

What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment?

Liebengood: I don't know if I can really answer that question because I feel that there is more out there in life to accomplish. However, I am extremely proud of my work with the Racing to Live by the Rules youth motivational program. I have spoken to over 10,000 fifth and six grade students throughout the country about the importance of obeying the law and choosing healthy lifestyles.

Compare driving a formula car to a sports car?

Liebengood: They are both great to be able to race. The formula car events that I competed in have been sprint races. In the sprint races, it is all out for the hour or so in time. In sportscar racing, the endurance factor takes place. The driver and team need to be conscientious of how the car is being treated, what is going on in the race, who is the overall leader, when to change driver or when to splash with fuel, etc.

Both are great fun to driver, regardless, you need to have a good team and a good car behind you to be successful no matter which type of car you are racing.

Compare driving a rear wheel drive sports car to a front wheel drive racer?

Liebengood: This January was the first time that I raced a front wheel driver car in a while. But the same principals of racing will never change. You need to be smooth with your hands and feet, keep your eyes up, quick up shifts and downshifts, be on the proper line, carry speed through the corners, etc.

How did you get involved in the National Campaign to Stop Violence, and what exactly is that?

Liebengood: The National Campaign to Stop Violence is based in Washington, DC. The National Campaign to Stop Violence implements the Do the Write Thing Challenge wherein middle school students throughout the country write essays about violence and make a personal commitment to reduce violence. During the school year, students participate in Do the Write Thing Challenge classroom discussions about violence. Students accept the "challenge" by submitting writings to their local Do the Write Thing Challenge Committee and by initiating violence reduction efforts. Students are honored at local city recognition ceremonies and have their writings published and distributed locally. Two "national finalist" from each participating city are honored at a national recognition ceremony in Washington, DC in July. In addition, the writings of these young people are published and place in the Library of Congress.

I became involved with the National Campaign to Stop Violence with my youth motivational program, Racing to Live by the Rules. The Racing to Live by the Rules youth motivational program is presented on the behalf of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

What goals have you set for yourself for this season and in the future?

Liebengood: My goal for this year is to do the best job that I can in the HRPWorld.Com/Pennzoil Acura Integra. Hopefully after the final race at Daytona in November, I will have contributed to another championship.

I really enjoy endurance racing so I hope to become a better endurance racer and become proficient in this type of racing. I would like to be able to continue racing in the Grand Am Cup series and hope to win some more races. In addition, I would like to compete in the Rolex 24, Sebring 12 Hour, the Petit LeMans and LeMans 24 Hour race before putting the helmet on the shelf.

As for the future, I am not sure. A couple of years ago, I did an interview for TheRaceSite.Com and was asked that same question. I like the world of auto racing so I would like to stay involved in racing in some capacity. The business side of the sport has really intrigued me and I would like someday to be involved in the marketing or promotion side of the sport.

-hrpworld-

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Series GRANDAM