Backed by Supportive Team, Campi Racing’s Colby Howard Enjoying Breakout PLM Rookie Season

Backed by Supportive Team, Campi Racing’s Colby Howard Enjoying Breakout PLM Rookie Season

By Chuck Corder

Admittedly, Colby Howard is his own worst critic.

The 17-year-old late model driver from Simpsonville, S.C., sets the bar high for himself. Lofty goals beget great expectations.

In his rookie season driving a Pro Late Model for Anthony Campi Racing, Howard has already collected two victories and far exceeded his and many others’ expectations.

He aims for his second Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model 100 lap feature victory on Friday at Five Flags Speedway.

“That track is not what I expected,” Howard said of Pensacola’s high banks. “I couldn’t get over the
g-force going into the corners, and how much you’re on the throttle. It’s such a momentum track.”

The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen and Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks join the festivities, but the night will be headlined by the track’s annual kids bicycle races.

Kids 12 and under are required to bring a bike and helmet, and parents are encouraged to contact the track office (850.944.8400) for more information on how to fill out and turn in the registration form before 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military, and students; children ages 11 and younger get in free.

As smooth as things have been for Howard in his first year driving PLMs, the season has come with its fair share of pitfalls and pressure.

It started back at the Snowflake 100 in December when Chase Purdy outlasted a week-long postponement, bitter weather, and a slew of cautions to put the Campi Racing PLM machine in Victory Lane.

“That really put it into perspective how talented this team was,” said Howard, who inherited the ride from Purdy.

When Giovanni Bromante scored marquee wins for the team’s Super Late Model program at New Smyrna Speedway and Opp, Ala., earlier this season, Howard’s eyes got as big as Hoosiers and his self-imposed intensity heightened.

“I’m known to put a lotta pressure on my shoulders to perform,” he said. “There was a lotta stress going into that first race (at Montgomery Motor Speedway). And, when we wrecked, that only put more stress on me.”

Thankfully, all that fell by the wayside when Howard strapped in for the next race at Montgomery following the disappointing debut.

What a 180-degree turn Howard made. The rising senior fought off veterans Casey Roderick and Augie Grill for a much-needed jolt of confidence.

“Everything was perfect,” Howard recalled. “When I was racing Late Model Stock, all I heard about was Augie and Casey. To be able to race against them, and hold them off and beat them, that was pretty cool to me.”

Two weeks later, he was back in the mix with Roderick at the Allen Turner Hyundai PLM season opener in April.

Howard was the only driver that presented a challenge to Roderick that night. Unfortunately, on Lap 67, the two got tangled up and Roderick spun. Both drivers were sent to the rear for being involved in an accident, and Howard wasted no time getting back to the front.

He finally found clean air and assumed the lead with 15 laps to go, and never relinquished it.

“Because of the contact with Casey, I didn’t feel like I won that race,” Howard said. “I hate how that fell out. But, Casey and I have talked, and we’re all good.

“To get that win was pretty cool. All you here about with Pensacola is how hard it is on tires. But, it’s also physically and mentally abrasive on you.”

Howard hasn’t raced since that win here at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. Another 100 lapper in Montgomery was rained out last month, so Howard hopes to avoid any rust from a lingering absence.

“I’m real antsy to get back in the car,” he said. “It’s definitely a concern that I haven’t raced in over a month. But, I’ve gotten more confident about getting up to speed faster.”