DRY PRONG, Louisiana — Among the mix of rising young stars and seasoned veterans now competing in Factory Stock around the states of Texas and Louisiana, one teenage sensation is starting to make a name for himself. Living to learn and gain seat time, the hard work he's been doing is paying off.
For 17-year-old third generation racer Cj Howell, the 2022 season has been one to remember, and one to savor. In a whopping 50 starts thus far, he's earned eight wins, including last Saturday night's big Fall Southern Showdown at Sabine Speedway, 16 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes.
“Ever since we got this new car, we've enjoyed an outstanding season,” Howell said. “We've been on fire with it. I don't quite know why, but it's been fast. Everywhere we take it, we're contending for a win or a top-three finish. To have found both speed and consistency with it is why we're doing so well.
“In the last year or so, we've kind of changed our program around some. We decided we wanted to get better, so we've been racing as much as we can. The more you race, the quicker you learn. And you have to compete against the best out there in order to learn from them. I think we're making progress.”
Howell is now in his fourth year of racing, and has enjoyed some success along the way.
“Racing has been in our family for decades,” he explained. “My grandfather, my father, both of my uncles, they all raced. I turned my first laps in a race car when I was 13 during Hot Laps. A few months later, I got my first car on my 14th birthday. I really took to it, and still enjoy it very much.
“I was lucky enough to drive a Sport Mod for a good friend of the family, and managed to earn a $5,000 win last year at Super Bee Speedway. It wasn't quite as big as this last win, but I'm still proud of it. We've just been working hard to improve, and this year it's been paying off. It's very satisfying.”
In the Ark-La-Tex area, Factory Stock is about as tough as it gets. Seasoned veterans are everywhere.
“I've found that racing more often against all of those top guys, like Whitehead, Faulkner and Kemp, is actually a good thing,” Howell said. “Sure, you might get it handed to you some nights. But eventually, you learn some skills and have a good enough setup underneath you to actually beat them.
“I think that's how we're improving and doing this well is because we're running so often against that caliber of race team. Guys who bring their A Game to every show. These days, we bring a strong horse to the race, as well. Seat time, attention to details on car maintenance; that's why we're winning races.”
When Howell puts on his safety suit, grabs his helmet and gets ready to race, he climbs into a rather unique yet finely-crafted machine.
“We have a very nice 2022 Holy Moly Chassis, built by Jason Pina in the Houston area,” he said. “It's a beautiful car, it sure drives nice and we work hard to keep it up every single week. That whole weekly nut-and-bolt routine is so key, it keeps you from having issues at the track. We treat this car like gold.
“As for horsepower, my uncle Rodney is our engine builder. He has the skills and experience, his engine has all kinds of power and is super reliable. I'm blessed to have an uncle who can contribute to my racing program like that. While others go buy their motors, we have that expertise in the family.”
Along with his impressive natural talent behind the wheel and unique, top-notch race car, Howell also has several key people and marketing partners on board who keep his program on-track and successful.
“I have an amazing family and great friends, so I want to thank my Mom, Dad, my grandmother, Sheree; Rodney, Tiffany, Dalton, Dillon and Jackie. I couldn't possibly do this without their support.
“I also need to thank our great partners, including Hunter and Beck Attorneys, Affordable Cleaning Team, JCR Components, Howell Motorsports, Big T Motorsports, Joel's Auto Sales, Papa Joe's Auto Sales, Bodies by CJ, Stealth Racing Transmissions, FTS Supply, HM Chassis, RH Engines, LBG Graphics and Club 20 Suspension. I appreciate each one and the support they provide all season.”
With things quickly winding down on the 2022 short track season around the region, Howell still has a few goals to achieve before the car gets tucked away for the winter.
“We'll be headed for Thunder Valley Speedway this weekend for their points finale,” Howell concluded. “I haven't missed their last race of the season since I started racing, and don't plan to. Two years ago, they had to cancel it due to rain and never got to reschedule it. I'm focused on that for now.
“We're planning to run the Cajun Classic that's coming up here in a few weeks at Ark-La-Tex Speedway, and the Spooky 50 at Super Bee in October is on our list, as well. I plan to be back at Rocket Raceway Park for their $5,000-to-win show in November. It's been a busy but fantastic year.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Scott Burson