Buddy Howell was flagging a spectator race when disaster struck.
A small stock car oval track west of Gainesville, Florida, was the scene of a tragic event Sunday afternoon when Buddy Howell, a popular flagman at speedways up and down the west coast of Florida, including near his home in Bradenton, was struck and killed while flagging a race.
The race was a spectator event, where fans are invited to bring their cars and trucks down to the track for a one-lap race against one other vehicle. It typically involves 10 or so entrants – lose one race, and you are out, and the winner goes up against the winner of a previous race, until all but one driver is eliminated. Spectator races are typically used to fill in time between conventional races, often during intermission.
And flagmen, who are usually stationed above the action in the flagstand, often officiate spectator races from down by the track, where the danger, until now, seemed minimal.
At just after 3 p.m., the driver of a Chevrolet pickup truck took the short paved oval’s outside groove in a race against a red car that took the inside. The truck spun coming out of turn four, and careened into the infield, where it struck Howell and came close to striking the announcer, said one source. The front of the truck was heavily damaged. Paramedics were there immediately, but Howell’s injuries were too severe.
A popular personality
To say Buddy Howell was popular with fans and racers would be a serious understatement. He helped train newer flagmen, and he was eager to get anyone interested in his favorite sport – according to an article in the Gainesville, Florida paper, Saturday night the mayor of Bronson visited the track with his young daughter who is interested in racing, and Howell invited her up into the flag stand to show her how everything worked.
Monday, tributes continued to pour in on Karnac.com, a Florida racing web site. “He was one of the hard-core who really lived and breathed our sport,” wrote Rex Hollinger, a sprint car driver with the TBARA series, which Howell often flagged for. “If you knew him, you would have liked him.”
Buddy Howell was 49.