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Season Summary: Luke Howard
258
11/18/2016

11/18/2016


Season Summary: Luke Howard

(Photo by Hale Photography)

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – A transition to three new divisions of racing in 2016 led to impressive results throughout the season for Luke Howard. Though the Overland Park, Kan. youngster couldn’t manage to break through for a victory, he did tally an impressive 36 top-ten finishes in 48 races across midget competition primarily at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Mo., and in micro sprint action at Sweet Springs (Mo.) Motorsports Complex.

Howard’s first midget start came at Valley back on April 2, but resulted in a failure to finish. However, his excellent record of taking care of his equipment held true in 2016; the DNF at Valley would prove to be the only such occurrence of the entire year. Two weeks later, he was back in action at that third-mile oval and posted his first top-ten finish in the ECOtec-powered Stealth Chassis entry. “Lightning Luke” had a successful first outing in the stock wing and nonwing micro classes at Sweet Springs on April 30, with 8th- and 11th-place showings, respectively.

A return to Valley on May 14 set a new bar for Howard, powering his way from ninth on the starting grid up to fifth to earn his first top-five result; in fact, he would finish inside the top five in every event at Valley for the remainder of the season, a streak of 11 races. Howard’s breakout performance in the nonwing micro class came on May 28. He cruised to victory in his heat race after starting on the pole. Going seventh in the main event, he quickly darted toward the front and took the lead early. He would cling to the top spot for over 20 laps before Quinton Benson and Christopher Koch, both racers who have won multiple track championships and have been racing the sixth-mile oval since before Howard’s birth, were able to sneak by in the waning laps. Howard held on for the final step on the podium that night, and later earned a fifth-place finish in the winged class as well.

Howard picked up two more micro top-tens on June 4 and a midget fifth a week later. June 18 brought a side-by-side battle between he and fellow fourth-row starter Tom Curran in the winged division. Curran ultimately took the crown that night, but young Howard was quickly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with at the Sweet Springs facility.

A huge turnout of cars for the John Hinck Memorial doubleheader weekend on July 8 and 9 put Howard in fields of 37 winged and 34 nonwing entries. Though having to compete in a winged B-Main and only managing a 16th-place finish in the feature, he earned a seventh-place showing in the nonwing event that night. Rather than stick around for the Saturday night portion of the show, Howard and team headed to Grain Valley to get more midget seat time. The choice would prove to be a good one, as the result was Howard’s first midget podium, a third-place run. Four more top-tens in four micro starts and another third-place midget finish kept Howard Racing Team in high spirits throughout the month.

August started rocky with finishes of 14th and 15th at a Sweet Springs Friday night show on the 5th, but running fourth at Valley the following night quickly brought the morale back up. Another nonwing third-place effort on August 13 led into Howard’s top midget run of the season, when he took a runner-up finish to teammate Riley Kreisel, who had been using Howard’s Esslinger engine that he will compete with in the 2017 season.

Yet another third at Valley to begin September convinced Howard’s father Trevor to try something new; the Labor Day Weekend provided the opportunity to travel to Central Missouri Speedway in Warrensburg on Sunday night to try their hand at a new facility with the Allstar Midget Series. Luke adjusted to the new track, slightly less banked than Valley, with little issue. The 12-year-old rising star managed an eighth-place scoring on that night. In his next race back at Valley, he replicated his previous result there, earning a third-place finish.

Between two fourth-place runs in his final midget starts of the year on October 1 and 15, there was the biggest event on the calendar for the Howard Racing Team: the Show-Me Showdown on October 6-8. The season-ending race at Sweet Springs regularly brings in talent from across the Midwest to compete for $2000 paydays in the outlaw classes and $1500 in the stock classes. Losing Thursday the 6th to rain, the show was instead compressed into two days. Competing in the stock winged division and also relegating to the restricted class for the weekend, Howard looked strong each time he hit the track. Starting and finishing third in his stock heat race wouldn’t be enough to be in the top 12 in points, so he’d have to compete in the B-Main, which would take an additional 12 drivers to the preliminary main event. Starting sixth in that race, Howard powered into second. However, the third-place driver attempted a slidejob late in the race, though each driver was set to transfer. The move fell short, and Howard’s Pace Chassis No. 2 was sent tumbling through turn three. Howard emerged unscathed, but wouldn’t be moving on to the main event. The next morning, Howard navigated the restricted entry to third place in that preliminary feature. Once nightfall came on Saturday, Howard climbed aboard the restricted car to earn a runner-up finish, and then rallied a tweaked machine in the stock B-Main from 14th to finish sixth and lock into the championship main event, where he would again power forward, this time from 18th to ninth.

In all, Howard earned Rookie of the Year honors in all three divisions. At Sweet Springs, Howard finished ninth in the stock winged and tenth in the stock nonwing point standings. At Valley, only Kreisel (1559) bested Howard (1478) in the POWRi Outlaw Midget division standings.

After winning a new Boss Chassis kit, Howard will be moving to that manufacturer for the 2017 season, as well as utilizing the aforementioned Esslinger power under the hood. That combination will be used when engine rules allow for purpose-built racing engines, which most sanctions allow for. The team’s schedule is far from complete, but it may include trips east to compete with other series under the POWRi banner, including the National Midgets with the Boss/Esslinger, the Outlaw Micros with the Pace, and the Division II Midgets (which require production-level engines) with the Stealth and ECOtec engine.

Howard Racing Team would like to thank Canyon Stone, Cash Kid Digital Studios, Nathan Benson Motorsports, AdvanTec Dyno Services, Schure Built Suspension, and Fairfield Motor Sports for their continued support, as well as additional thanks to Richard and Riley Kreisel for their relentless contributions to the team.

2016 Stats

48 races, 47 features, 0 wins, 10 podiums, 20 top-fives, 36 top-tens, 1 DNF


Article Credit: Redbeard Promotions

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