It’s not often an individual can say they have truly changed the world around them, but Birmingham, Alabama’s George Howard changed the world of drag racing more than once during his lengthy career as an event promoter and track operator. In 1994, Howard grabbed the reigns of the rapidly growing, but chaotic “big money bracket race” scene and introduced the B&M Racer Appreciation Series, a multi-race schedule that featured $5,000-or-higher payouts on all three days for a small entry fee, sometimes even putting on entire weekend events with no entry fee at all. This series gave some semblance of order to what amounted to the Wild West of race promoting in the early 90’s. The series ran successfully for over a decade, finally fading in the face of a dwindling economy and an overabundance of similarly-formatted events, all of which were derived from Howard’s original idea.
In 1996, George shocked the world when he revealed that he planned to put on a race that paid a million dollars to the winner, and he laid the groundwork for what is arguably still the most coveted winner’s check in all of drag racing: The Million Dollar Drag Race. While it hasn’t yet garnered the car count required to make the full million-dollar payout, the Million Dollar Drag Race, known by most as simply “The Million”, is by far the richest single-event payday in all of drag racing, having paid as much as $365,000 to the winner. While Howard sold his remaining interest in the event to Ron Folk a few years back to spend more time with his family, he always considered creating The Million one of his finest achievements.
Howard would prove he was more than bracket racing when he teamed up with ORSCA front man Johnny Fenn to host what to this day remains one of the largest paydays for an outlaw-style event when they handed the winner, Mike Hill, a check for $50,000 at Huntsville Dragway, the facility that Howard managed at the time. George also often had nitro teams visit Huntsville for match race-type appearances which drew massive crowds, including John Force, Tony Pedregon, and Scotty Cannon, during his stint in Funny Car. He also put on many huge Pro Mod events that would fill Huntsville to capacity – and occasionally beyond – throughout his tenure as manager.
Throughout his life, Howard was in and out of the drivers seat and often fielded cars as a team owner. George entered a state of semi-retirement in 2008, stepping away from full-time management and promoting to spend more time with his wife and children. He would spend time managing and helping manage several tracks in and around Alabama, but not as a full-time operator.
George passed away on Sunday at the age of 66 after a being found unresponsive in his home on December 26th. He leaves behind a large, loving family and countless racers whose lives he impacted. We at Dragzine send our sincere condolences to George’s family and friends.