Howell was a racetrack kid, tagging along with mom Janice, who also raced until Grace came into their lives, and pop Bill, a two-time national event winner in the Stock category and three-time Southeast Division titlist. Bill also earned the IHRA national championship in 1990.
"I followed in my dad's footsteps," said Howell. "I don't think there was ever a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do this, and honestly, it's all that I've ever known. It's a lifestyle I've always wanted, and I couldn't wait until I was old enough to drive a car."
The young woman is a drag racing enthusiast for certain, but her ambitions have extended beyond quarter-mile competition. After high school, Howell attended USC Aiken and shortly thereafter opened her own clothing boutique while also working in the family's commercial printing business. She recently made the decision to close the boutique and focus on her contributions to the expansion of Howell Printing Company, an institution that has been in her family for more than 150 years.
"I'm very fortunate that both of my parents have helped me with anything I wanted to do, and they have never really pushed me into anything," said Howell.
Graduating from a Jr. dragster to a Super Stock car is quite a leap, but with the encouragement of her parents, Howell barely batted an eye at the challenge.
In her first year racing in the Super doorslammer category, Howell proved her worth and raced to the final round of competition at the Division 7 event in Tucson at Southwestern Int'l Raceway. The next season, the aspiring competitor increased her efforts by two when she began racing in Stock as well, driving a '70 Mustang in the B/SA class in Sonoma. Howell began to make a name for herself on the national event circuit that same year by picking up a few Super Stock round wins at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, and for the next few seasons she continued chipping away at the competition and refining her driving skills.
"Marty somehow became interested in Super Stock and Stock, and he saw me racing," recalled Howell. "He had raced with General Motors for a few years, and he approached me [about a two-car team.] It worked out to be a great fit, and I got to race a factory Sport Compact car for General Motors in 2008 and 2009 in the NOPI/NHRA Xplod Pro Stock category. Oh, it was a blast."
The 2008 season emerged to be Howell's most successful yet, and she was runner-up in her debut and then picked up a win in Salt Lake City later in the season in her GM-backed Sport Compact entry. In NHRA competition, Howell triumphed in Columbus at a divisional event, taking home the Wally just a week after her Sport Compact victory.
In addition to Ladwig's guidance, Howell is grateful for the support of her parents as well as Mike Whittle, who is a tremendous help at the track. Further gratitude is offered for engine builder Mike Saye of Carolina Machine Engines, Mickey Thompson, and Ford Racing, who have recently become a very important part of Howell's career.
"I just got a '10 Cobra Jet Mustang that Ford only made 50 of as a factory race car, and I am racing that in AA/SA, and I've really enjoyed it," said Howell. "It's been a great car, and Ford has really helped us out. I won class at Indy, and I was really excited about that because there is always such tough competition there."
While she has traded up in Stock, she has also taken another big step in Super Stock, acquiring the SS/AM '05 Cavalier previously owned by ace competitor Brad Plourd.
Howell plans to continue racing Stock and Super Stock for the time being, but she also hopes to take a turn in Competition Eliminator eventually, and beyond that, the ambitious driver dreams that a Pro Stocker will someday carry her name on the window.
"As a racer, I always want to do as well as I can. From weekend to weekend, there are different challenges, but there are also new rewards. Every season I'm trying to further myself and become a little bit better. I love the competition, and I love winning races as much as anyone does. Believe me, it's wonderful. And the experience of being able to share this with friends and family, that makes it even better."
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