by: Cody Dinsmore
This past week has been a tough one for the Georgia Racing Community. Last Wednesday, we lost racing pioneer and 2004 Georgia Racing Hall Of Fame Inductee, Roz Howard. Just two days later on Friday, the 4th, we also lost 2009 GRHOF Inductee, Luther Carter. Although the two raced in different eras with totally different equipment, they were very similar in many ways.
Roswell Howard, known as Roz, was born in 1920 near Macon, GA. He served his country and worked the motor pool of the army. That was his first venture into the fascinating world of mechanics and engines. Just one year after the war ended in 1946, he borrowed a friend’s car and entered it in a jalopy division race at a small-time track near Macon, where he would flip the car three times. I don’t know what the friend thought of him after that, but needless to say, Roz wanted more. Shortly after that, he purchased a used sedan in hopes of one day winning a race. As the next couple of years progressed, so would Roz. He would be seated in better equipment and would win more races. Starting in the early ’50s, he would become a regular on the Southern Racing Enterprises Circuit. He would earn several victories in that series across the south. In 1956, he would make his NASCAR Grand National debut. He drove his own racecar, finished 13th, and received just $250. 1957 was a good year for Mr. Howard. He competed in the newly formed, MARC series. It is still around today, but under a different name, ARCA. He drove his brand new 1957 Chevy 150, otherwise known as a ‘Black Widow’, to the MARC Southern Division title. Part of the reason for winning the title was that he won the annual Labor Day Classic at the Lakewood Speedway.
At the start of the next season, he would still compete in MARC and some occasional NASCAR races. His best Grand National finish that season was 7th at Columbia. However, he wasn’t able to compete in a full season of racing. In May of ’58, he ran three consecutive races in both North and South Carolina, Asheville-Weaverville, Columbia and I believe Hillsboro. Within those three days, he drove probably close to 1500 miles, including the racing. Needless to say, I’m sure he was very tired. He was driving the tow truck back, at night. Almost home, around Augusta GA, he dozed off to sleep and hit a bridge post. He was severely injured with multiple broken bones, which left him in a full-body cast for a majority of 1958. He wouldn’t return to driving until the spring of ’59.
In 1960, he would downsize his driving schedule to help Paul McDuffie work on Joe Lee Johnson’s Chevy. Roz would drive 3 races himself as a team car to Joe Lee. His best finish would be his home track, Atlanta International Raceway, where in the track’s first event, he finished a career best 7th. He was also working on Johnson’s car when a pit accident occurred in that year’s Southern 500. Bobby Johns’ Pontiac went out of control and into the pit road wall where future Georgia Racing Hall Of Famer, Paul McDuffie would be killed along with three others. Something just told him to duck, which in turn, would save his life. Not long after this, Roz would step out of racing for several decades, only to come back into the spotlight in 2004 when he was among the third class inducted to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. In fact, he was a supporter of the Hall up until his death. Just this past October, he along with his family and friends, donated a beautiful replica of his MARC Championship winning 1957 Chevy.
Just two days after this giant passed on, another Hall of Famer was drafting right behind him on the road to the track upstairs. One thing I think that was unique about Luther Carter, was that he was successful on both dirt and asphalt. He started on dirt in 1969, in Canton GA. Over the decade of the 70′s, he would dominate races at tracks such as Dixie, Rome, Canton, Boyd’s, Toccoa, Mobile, 5 Flags, West Atlanta, Jefco, and MGR among others. One of his biggest wins was a late model race called the “Coca-Cola 200″ at Dixie Speedway. And although he never won the Snowball Derby, he competed in the famed race 6 times, with a best finish of 5th, in 1976. Even into the ‘modern era’ of local racing, he was a competitor and still was considered a hero to many along with an occasional win.
The last race he drove in was at the Senoia Raceway in 1999. Since then, he had trained his grandson, also named Luther, who competes at Dixie Speedway in the Super Late Model class. He got his first win in 2006, and Luther was there to see his grandson do what he had done years ago. Luther Carter was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 along with 7 other of his former friends and competitors. The 2009 class had names such as Luther, Buck Simmons, Leon Sells, and Ronnie Sanders. It was certainly a class of old friends. Luther was remembered as a driver that was tough as nails behind the wheel, but as soft as a Teddy bear away from the track. He was what most people think of Dale Earnhardt as. He wouldn’t put up with anybody beating on him during the race, but after the race, he would be your best friend and would help or do anything in the world for you.
Rest in Peace Gentlemen…
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