NWS: Yakima: Round seven preview

Dreams Have and Will Come True For The Sensible Steven Howard DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 16, 2004) - Everybody has a dream. Dreams are big and small, to drive a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car to a victory at Daytona International Speedway,...

Dreams Have and Will Come True For The Sensible Steven Howard

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 16, 2004) - Everybody has a dream. Dreams are big and small, to drive a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car to a victory at Daytona International Speedway, to get a promotion or buy that home on the water are but just a few. However, those dreams come true for people plan smartly and for every eventuality. NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series driver Steven Howard is living a dream, has bigger dreams, but, most importantly, he has a plan in place.

The 22-year old from Roy, Wash. is the series' youngest driver despite being in his fifth Northwest Series season. It would be very easy, at his age and with his experience, to have tunnel vision for the big time and for it to be a matter of when, not if. "Sure, I'd like to move up the ladder in racing, but I have to plan as though I won't," Howard said. "It's a little tougher in the Northwest. I know that. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but I can't ignore the other things in life." That is a wisdom that many athletes, people for that matter, much older have still yet to embrace.

"I spend a lot of time working on the race car and that is a big priority, but the biggest priority to me right now is school," said the sage youngster. Howard has already earned an associate's degree in business and plans to enroll in a business curriculum at a four-year institution in the near future.

"A lot of people dream of driving a race car and I am doing that at a high level and that was certainly a dream of mine. I grew up watching family friend (three-time series champion) Ron Eaton and the Northwest Series," said Howard.

Howard began racing Late Models at the age of 16 and moved into a Northwest Series ride at 18. "With the success that I had in Late Model racing, I did not think that the adjustment would be that big, but I quickly realized that the guys I had watched as a kid were pretty good drivers," he stated. "To be on the same track with a guy like Garrett Evans was pretty cool, but it was a real eye-opener. I had a lot of things to learn."

And learn he did. In 48 Northwest Series starts, Howard has posted 20 top-10 finishes including four in six events this season. He is currently ninth in the championship point standings, but just 44 points separate him and fourth place. "Yes, we've gotten better over the years and been consistent this season, but we need to get over this little hump and start contending for top fives and wins," says Howard.

Yakima (Wash.) Speedway is next up for the Northwest Series on July 24 for the Frank's Chevrolet 125, which will begin the all-important second half of the season. "I like the track at Yakima. It's fun. Especially that bump coming out of turn four," said Howard. "A lot of guys don't like it, but I do. It gives the track good character. It's pretty fast and I like our chances better on the faster tracks.

We're looking forward to another shot at this track this year. In the first race there, we had a tire going down the entire race and it finally went on the second to last lap," he said. "That is the only race that we did not finish on the lead lap."

As the 2004 season heads toward the home stretch, teams and drivers pay much more attention to the standings not only for the series championship, but also the top 10 as those teams will be invited to participate in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in November against the top 10 teams from the other three NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series. Last season, the Northwest Series contingent did not fare well. Howard was among those drivers last year and a top goal in 2004 was to get a chance at redemption. "Oh yeah, we'd really like to get back there. I don't want to look too far into the future, but that was a goal coming into this season," he said. "We never really got a hold of that track, but this time could be different."

Howard's dreams, good sense and determination will lead him down a path of success whether it is behind the wheel of a race car or not.

Fast Facts

What: Frank's Chevrolet 125 (Race No. 7 of 12 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).
Where: Yakima Speedway, Yakima, Wash.

When: 8:45 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, July 24, 2004.

Track layout: 1/2-mile oval.
Race length: 125 laps/62.05 miles.

Posted awards: $43,192.

2003 winner: Chris Hart.
2003 polesitter: Jeff Jefferson.

Top 10 in points: 1. Garrett Evans 975, 2. Travis Bennett 932, 3. Gary Lewis 888, 4. Jeff Jefferson 875, 5. Jason Jefferson 872, 6. (tie) Brandon Riehl 867, 6. (tie) Wes Rhodes 867, 8. Pete Harding 866, 9. Steven Howard 831. 10. John Bender 812.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 a.m. Registration opens, 2:30-5:00 p.m. Practice, 6:00 p.m. Time Trials.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jason Jefferson , John Bender , Gary Lewis