Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Roz Howard passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91.
Howard, a native of Macon, GA, honed his skills as a mechanic in the motor pool of the Army in 1942. In 1946, he got his first taste of driving in a borrowed car at a track cut into a cornfield near Macon. Howard’s day ended when he flipped the borrowed car three times. But it didn’t end his desire to race.
Howard would compete on the Southern Racing Enterprise circuit in the early 1950′s, competing across the southeast and scoring several feature wins.
In 1956, Howard would compete in his first NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) event, as he drove his own car to a 13th place finish, earning a whopping $250 for his effort.
In 1957, Howard won the MARC (now ARCA) Southern Late-Model Points championship title. He also scored a major victory in the series’ Labor Day event at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, GA. He won in cars powered by engines built by fellow Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Paul McDuffie.
Howard made a couple of return trips to NASCAR Grand National competition in 1958, finishing 7th at Columbia and 21st at Spartanburg in his own cars.
In the spring of 1958, Howard was badly injured in a traffic accident while driving home after three days of racing in the Carolinas. He fell asleep behind the wheel near Augusta, GA, and hit a bridge leaving him with injuries that left him in a body cast for much of the rest of the year.
In 1960, Howard teamed with Paul McDuffie and Joe Lee Johnson, and would pilot a Chevrolet in three NASCAR Grand National events. Howard turned in his career best finish of seventh at Atlanta International Raceway (now Atlanta Motor Speedway), followed by a ninth at Nashville and a 25th at Weaverville.
Howard was working as a mechanic for McDuffie on Joe Lee Johnson’s car in the 1960 Southern 500 at Darlington, SC when the out of control car of Bobby Johns slammed into the pit wall. Howard said later something told him “to duck”. As a result, he survived the accident, while McDuffie and two others were left dead.
In 2004, Roz Howard was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. He remained an ardent supporter of the Hall of Fame the rest of his life, attending events and lending his support as a Hall of Fame member. He was present at October’s induction ceremony, and at the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.
Late in 2012, Howard donated a replica of his 1957 championship winning Chevrolet to the Hall of Fame. It remains on display in a place of honor for Howard’s achievements.
“I’ve had a great career, won a championship and a bunch of races,” Howard said prior to his Hall of Fame induction in 2004. “But most of all (I’ve) met some of my best friends.”
Funeral Services will be held at 2 pm Saturday, January 5 at Lakeside Baptist Church in Milledgeville, GA. Interment will follow in Heritage Memorial Park.
Williams Funeral Home of Milledgeville is in charge of arrangements.