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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Winning just one feature race in Grandview Speedway’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series 358 dirt Modified division can be a career highlight. Duane Howard won nine of them this year.
Howard, 49, of Oley, Pa., enjoyed one of his best seasons on Grandview’s crowded and challenging .333-mile, high-banked clay oval. His season totals also included 16 top fives and top 10s in all 19 starts.
He won his fifth NASCAR track championship, third state championship and ranked seventh in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Top 500 for 2012. His ninth and final win of the season on Sept. 1 brought his career win total at Grandview to 50, neatly coinciding with the track’s 50th anniversary season.
Howard tries to explain that his successful numbers are simply due to longevity and racing with a great team, modestly not mentioning obvious talent.
“We’ve just been around a long time,” Howard said. “Everyone on the BPG Racing team has been together for years. There is stability throughout the team. We know what to expect right down to track conditions. We know the challenges we face, and that helps throughout the year.
“We’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the track. Weather conditions are in our race notes. That helps us know set-ups for every condition and what we do with tire pressure and siping pattern and depth. We keep track of how many laps are run on the track every week. As a team, we focus on preparation and detail.”
All that attention to detail is part of the team’s success, but they don’t hand out trophies for the best prepared car before the race. Drivers also have to do their jobs well. Success doesn’t come easily at Grandview.
Howard says about 40 cars pull into Grandview’s pit area each week, knowing that only 26-28 of them will make it into the 30 lap feature. Cars transfer into features through heat race finishes.
“Last week’s feature winner starts 18th every week,” Howard said, “and you have 30 laps to get to the front. “Our goal is to go out there every week and win races. To win nine this year is exceptional.”
Howard won eight features in 21 starts during 2010 when he finished third in the nation. This year he won nine, but finished seventh in national points. The final point night of the season at Grandview rained out and with a good finish, Howard believes he would have again had a chance to make it into the coveted top three in points.
“To win nine races and not make it to the stage stings,” Howard said. “Maybe without the rainout we might have been able to challenge. We’d like to have a second NASCAR track here to race two nights a week.”
In honor of Grandview Speedway’s 50th anniversary season the track offered a historic $50,000 to win its 42nd annual BPG Racing Freedom 76 on Sept. 15. Nine-time track champion Jeff Strunk won the event while Howard started 16th and finished seventh.
“I never thought in a million years we’d be racing for $50,000 to win at Grandview Speedway,” Howard said. “The Rogers family (who promote the speedway) time and again are the premier dirt track owners on the east coast.”
The annual Forrest Rogers Memorial pays $20,000 to win. Howard won the Rogers Memorial race in 2010 and the Freedom 76 four times.
“I never expected small block dirt Modifieds to race for that kind of money. It’s just incredible to be a competitor at that track,” Howard said.
He, team owner Chad Sinon and his BPG Racing team won 2012 point fund awards and special awards reported to be in excess of $20,000 for winning the track championship.
Sinon is president of Brandon Products Group, Inc. (BPG), a specialty distributor for mechanical and electro-mechanical components based in North Wales, Pa. Howard joined the Sinon’s team about 10 years ago. The combination won NASCAR state championships in 2007, 2010 and 2012. Howard won Grandview track championships in 1993, 1996-97, 2010 and 2012.
Alan Finch is BPG Racing’s crew chief. Team members include Ronald Johnson, Jeff Fick, Cory Howard, Kevin Howard and Mark Stahl. Although Howard races on dirt, he looks after a lot of asphalt as Road Superintendent for Oley Township, Pa. Howard and his wife Jill have two daughters Erica, 17 and Jessica, 7.
Howard was honored Friday night for his track and state championships during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards event at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 16 counted toward their states and national point totals, and
the champions are decided on overall point total. Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their total would increase incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
Duane Howard dives into a turn at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. Courtesy Chris Budihas