HORSEHEADS, N.Y. — “This is kind of the same situation as Carl Edwards (announcing his retirement), but on a much smaller scale.”
Those were the words of ‘Flyin’ Bryan’ Howland, who announced on Monday night that 2017 will be his final season aboard the family-owned Filtrec Corporation No. 51 sprint car. The four-time Patriot Sprint Tour series champion, and only PST champion to have won three titles in-a-row, took to social media to lay out a schedule of events for his fans that want to see him race in his last season. His reasons for stepping away include spending more time with his growing children and family, as well as spending more time on the boat fishing.
Howland spoke with RaceChaserOnline.com on Monday evening and was far from saying he would never drive a sprint car again.
“I’m going to keep my suit and helmet handy in case someone wants me to drive once in a while, but I’m not counting on anything,” admitted Howland.
Howland’s career in winged race cars began with racing in the Central New York Mini Sprints, but a love for 360 sprint cars prompted the family to purchase a full-size car toward the end of 2003. His very first race in a 360 sprint car took place at the fast track of the North as the Can Am Speedway.
“The looks and excitement of sprints drew me to them,” said Howland. “I remember watching an ESS race at Utica-Rome Speedway (Vernon, NY). (It was) insane fast and wild. I needed full size sprints in my life. We pursued it, and I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family and a few sponsors to help afford the habit.”
It didn’t take Howland long to get acquainted with his new love of sprint cars. 2004 marked his first full season with the Patriots, and his first series title would come just a year later. Chuck Hebing dominated the series in 2006 and 2007, but Howland would then stake his claim on the tour currently operated by Mike Emhof Motorsports.
The driver hailing from Auburn, N.Y. would rip off three straight championships from 2008-2010, while amassing twenty-eight series victories. Howland dabbled with the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints as well, collecting three career series wins with two of those victories coming at Fulton Speedway in 2006 and 2013.
Looking over the schedule that the Howland team has laid out for their ‘Last Hurrah’ shows a mix of races across the PST and ESS schedules. The first race will take place at a track he last won at in 2013, when Howland tackles the Fulton Speedway with the ESS competitors. His final scheduled race weekend includes a two-day show at the Ohsweken Speedway for the annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. An event that Howland won, in thrilling fashion, in 2015.
That night in Canada, Howland was the hard charger of the event by gaining nineteen positions to take the win. He led only two laps in the race, leading lap 33 and taking the lead at the stripe to win the race on lap 35. We asked how special winning a second CSCN title, to close out his team’s farewell tour, would be?
“Winning a second Nationals honestly isn’t even in my mind,” explained Howland. “It is happens it would be just as exciting as my first one. Every Canadian Nationals win is a feather in the cap, and something to brag about. We will be trying for another win, but realistically I just hope to qualify. I’m more worried that I won’t qualify for my last Canadian Nationals.”
Howland’s Facebook account was flooded with messages of future luck and high levels of respect. They are very well-deserved for a respected team in the pit area, paired with a driver that is more than giving of his time to fellow competitors, young aspiring fans and members of the motorsports media.
May the next generation of budding sprint car drivers include a few more like Bryan Howland, both on and off the track.
About the Writer
Steven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, airing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern every Tuesday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.
The 30-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also entering his second season as the full-time announcer and media director for Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.
In addition, Ovens was formerly the announcer and media director for Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., serving in that capacity in both 2015 and 2016.
Email Steve at: [email protected]
Follow on Twitter: @StevenOvens
Email Race Chaser Online: [email protected]
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews