Baton Rouge: Kelly Howard preview

BATON ROUGE, La. - A little over four years ago, Federal Mogul Dragster driver Shelly Howard picked up her first career win at State Capitol Dragway in Baton Rouge, La. This year, the veteran driver will be looking to protect her first ever ...

BATON ROUGE, La. - A little over four years ago, Federal Mogul Dragster driver Shelly Howard picked up her first career win at State Capitol Dragway in Baton Rouge, La. This year, the veteran driver will be looking to protect her first ever points lead at the NHRA Division 4 Federal Mogul Drag Racing Series event to be held at that very same track this weekend.

Howard, who is a registered nurse when not racing in Tulsa, Okla., comes into this weekend's event hot off of two straight final round appearances at the first Division 4 meets in Houston and Dallas, winning the latter. Howard holds a slim 21 point lead over Division 4 rival Troy Buff, and hopes to pad that lead with another win this weekend in Baton Rouge.

"We're just going to go into the race and try to make the car consistent as usual," said Howard. "We'll also have to deal with whatever track and weather conditions we run into as well. You have to have a different strategy for every track. Every race is different, and you have to deal with it as a new race."

Over the winter, the Baton Rouge racing surface received a new concrete launch pad. Even with her past successes there, Howard feels the new surface will make everyone start from scratch for a tune up this weekend.

"Since the starting line has been resurfaced, hopefully the lanes will be more equal," stated Howard. "Hopefully it won't be a one lane racetrack this year. In previous years, if you didn't have lane choice, you really didn't have much of a chance of winning your particular round. If the lanes are more equal, lane choice will not be as much of a factor as it used to be."

With the points lead in hand going into race three of the six race Division 4 series, Howard feels that even with a win this weekend, she cannot start preparing her Division 4 Championship speech just yet. Rather, she realizes there is still a lot of racing to do until November.

"In some respects, the points lead puts more pressure on you," commented Howard. "In other respects, it gives you a sort of boost to know that you have a strong standing in points going into the rest of the year. Every race is different. You could win one race, then go into the next race and not qualify, or lose in the first round. I try not to dwell on the points lead too much, but to go into each race like it's a new ballgame."

Qualifying begins at 4 p.m. for the Federal Mogul Dragsters, with two more sessions following on Saturday. Final eliminations will conclude the event Sunday. Stay tuned to Howard's award winning website, <A HREF="http://ShellyHoward.com">www.ShellyHoward.com</A>, to keep up to date on the teams progress through the weekend.

-Will Hanna

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shelly Howard , Troy Buff