Baytown: Shelly Howard preview

Howard to start in Houston with 'clean slate' BAYTOWN, Texas - In most instances, after winning a championship the season before, most teams would consider their first race the first one in their 'title defense.' Not so with 2001 NHRA Division...

Howard to start in Houston with 'clean slate'

BAYTOWN, Texas - In most instances, after winning a championship the season before, most teams would consider their first race the first one in their 'title defense.' Not so with 2001 NHRA Division 4 Top Alcohol Dragster Champion Shelly Howard.

Rather, Howard and her Tulsa, Okla., based team will enter this weekend's NHRA Division 4 opener at Houston Raceway Park with the attitude of having a 'clean slate.' They feel the score is 0-0 in the top of the first, with 9 full innings yet to play, and that last year's championship is nothing more than a pennant hanging in the stadium when Sunday morning's first round rolls around.

Last year's season-ending crash was like losing their ace starting pitcher to a career-ending injury. It's replacement, a brand new 'rookie' Dave Uyehara chassis showed promise during the Top Alcohol Warm Up in Dallas (AAA ball), but has yet to prove it's merit in competition.

With all these things considered, Howard and her team are far from being 'over confident.' Instead, they are ready to work harder than ever to earn another championship.

"I am by no means out to defend any title," said Howard. "That's not my priority in this point in time. My goal this weekend is to become comfortable in the new car and to learn how to get it down the track. Each car is different, and this one feels considerably different from my old car. We need to figure out what this car wants tune-up wise to get it down the track as well. That's all I'm really concentrating on at this point."

With being the champion comes the fact that your competition has you in their sights to 'knock' you off the top. Even with that in mind, Howard plans to use the same 'run your own race, one round at a time' mindset that brought her success last year.

"Being the champion doesn't put any additional pressure on me; I don't have time to think about that," commented Howard. "All of my focus now is getting used to this new car. If I start worrying about everything else, then I'm not doing my job the way I want to. My ego doesn't require that. I'm just out to take it one step at a time. I'm not going to let an ego get in the way of me doing what I need to do driving the car. The division championship was last year, and this is a whole new year."

Qualifying begins on Friday at 4 p.m. for the Top Alcohol Dragsters with two more sessions on Saturday. Final eliminations will conclude the event on Sunday. Stay tuned to InsideTopAlcohol.com for the latest news in the world of alcohol racing.

-shr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shelly Howard