DuQuoin: Shelby Howard race report

Roller coaster weekend for Howard 2nd at Winchester curbed by overheating problem at DuQuoin Indianapolis, IN (September 2, 2003) -- Labor Day weekend proved to be a time of extremes for ARCA RE/MAX star Shelby Howard. After a dazzling ...

Roller coaster weekend for Howard
2nd at Winchester curbed by overheating problem at DuQuoin

Indianapolis, IN (September 2, 2003) -- Labor Day weekend proved to be a time of extremes for ARCA RE/MAX star Shelby Howard. After a dazzling performance at Winchester (2nd) on Saturday, the 18-year-old hot shoe finished the long weekend less fortunate at DuQuoin (24th) on Monday.

Howard entered Saturday's 200-lap race as the logical choice to unseat perennial favorite Frank Kimmel from the winner's throne at Winchester Speedway. After deciding to change his engine after an oil pressure problem in practice, the Greenwood, Indiana resident took the first steps toward a potential victory with a rock-solid, outside pole run during qualifying. Only Paul Menard (with backing from Andy Petree Racing) proved to be quicker.

Mirroring last year's race, Howard drove smart, stayed patient, and kept his Dodge clean and out of trouble all while keeping the leaders within striking distance. While the car's handling in the turns wasn't up to snuff, Howard knew he had "a healthy one" as he could close the gap in the straight-aways.

At the halfway point, he had the Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge running 3rd. With 38 laps to go, Howard came down pit road to the attention of his crew while under caution. Running 9th and the last car on the lead lap, Howard was too tight in the center so he came in during the next caution for one turn on the trackbar. That did the trick because the car came to life and Howard knew it was "time to go". As expected, the fireworks were about to get under way.

Howard knocked off a car every lap until he was running 4th behind Kimmel, Mike Langston, and Chase Montgomery. With 4 laps to go, Montgomery and Langston got in a hard wreck, which ended up with Montgomery's car upside down in turn two and Langston's entry pulled off with a wrecker. As Howard drove low to miss the crash, someone got into his passenger door. The contact peeled back the sheet metal on Howard's Dodge like a can opener.

The race was red-flagged for 15 minutes to clean up the mess. While necessary, it may have cost Howard a shot at the win. Fresher tires aren't quite as effective when the competition gets to cool theirs off for the final restart. Back under green with 2 to go, Howard closed in on Kimmel but could only get to his bumper. Just like last year, Howard followed Kimmel under the checkered flag.

"We ran the race just the way we planned and it almost paid off," said Howard. "Early on, the car was squirrelly coming off the turns, but we kept on making adjustments. It kept getting better and it was as good as it had been all night right there at the end. The red flag hurt us, but that's part of it. We had a great crowd here tonight and they definitely got their money's worth. I'm glad Chase and Mike are ok."

With a rain-filled day of travel behind them, Howard and the Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge Racing team prepared for the unknown in the slop at DuQuoin on Monday. The one-mile dirt track had turned into even more of a challenge with help from all the rain.

The day wasn't getting any better when Howard's Dodge began to overheat in practice. The team decided to pull out the backup for qualifying and make their run without a lap of practice on the car.

Despite having no time to tweak his car's handling, Howard was able to lay down a lap that put him 10th on the starting grid.

Another heating problem quickly developed after the race started, forcing Howard down pit road every chance he got to cool down his engine. After 56 laps, there would be no more. Howard parked his Dodge Intrepid and called it a day, finishing 24th.

"We had the same problem in both cars this weekend," Howard said. "I milked it for all it was worth, but it didn't last long. We didn't need another DNF, but I don't think we lost much ground today. I'm ready to move on to Chicago."

Howard continues to hold down the 5th spot in the ARCA point standings heading into Chicagoland Speedway for the ReadyHosting.com 200 on Saturday. Qualifying is Thursday at 4 pm and the race is 12 noon on Saturday (all times local).

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Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Chase Montgomery , Shelby Howard , Andy Petree , Paul Menard , Mike Langston