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Meet the Crew: Colleen Dallenbach Howerton

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Colleen Dallenbach Howerton

Meet the Crew: Colleen Dallenbach Howerton

Tom Blattler
Ed Carpenter Racing
July 2, 2013

Colleen Dallenbach Howerton
July 2nd 2013 - COLLEEN DALLENBACH HOWERTON, Team Coordinator

Literally grew up in motorsports watching her father, Wally, racing Indy cars and began working in the sport in the late 1980s…. Colleen also watched her brothers race with Wally Jr., winning Trans-Am sports car titles and driving stock cars and Indy cars, and Paul winning the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb … Her experience in racing includes registration, timing and scoring, public relations, hospitality and travel manager…. Howerton has served with several teams including Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PacWest Racing, PKV Racing and Conquest Racing…. Colleen and her husband Rick have two sons, Jared, 12, and Dillon, 11….. The family is active in motorcycle racing with Rick’s AMA flat track team and team rider Bryan Smith.

Growing up with your dad racing, do you remember attending the races as a youngster?

"I remember going to Indy, Pocono and Trenton as a kid. We lived in New Jersey then. I remember all of the 1973 Indy 500 events. My dad helped get Salt Walther out of the car in the front straightaway crash. I remember going to Milwaukee right after that too. I don’t remember my dad racing in the modifieds but I think I went to Wall Stadium when I was really young. He was always in Indy cars when I went to the races. We lived in East Brunswick, N.J., back then. My older brother Wally is two years older than me and my younger brother Paul is two years younger. We would travel together in the summer in a van or a motorhome to the races. I was pretty much of a Tomboy back then so I could handle myself with the boys pretty well. I never wanted to race like my brothers. I wasn’t good enough on motorcycles when I was young so I felt I wouldn’t want to races. We had motorcycles when we were kids. I learned to ride a dirt bike when I was four. Then we moved to Colorado when I was eight. I lived in Colorado until I moved to Indy to work for Chip’s (Ganassi) team. I moved out to Indy 20 years for the five-year plan. But the plan changed a little after that. Paul has always been in Colorado and Wally moved to Texas, Florida and North Carolina when he was racing in NASCAR. Wally’s daughter, Katie, is 17 and trying to get into racing right now like her mom, Robin (who was a successful stock car racer). So they are in Florida now."

So who did you hang out with at the races as a kid?

"I hung out with my brothers and we were probably the original ‘brat pack at the track.’ We would play with the Johncock kids, the Parsons kids, Billy Vukovich and the Andrettis occasionally. Michael is a few years older than me. I was more of Jeff’s age. Back then, the race track was our backyard. We had free reign wherever we could sneak in. We would play football or hide and seek or throw snow cones off the IMS stands. Sorry Tony!! I would never think about letting my seven, eight or nine year old kids run around the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway now. But, back then, that is what we did. We were in Indy for a whole month and my folks would rent an apartment. My mom used to have a cousin from New Jersey who would come out and stay with us when Mom and Dad had events to attend. When we got older and my dad was still racing, we would come out to Indy, Phoenix and California. We would travel in a motorhome and drive back east to see the family too and my dad would race. In the summer, we would go to Milwaukee Pocono and California. Then, once my dad retired and became CART chief steward, we would just go to Phoenix because it was close. It wasn’t quite the same then but we still knew a lot of people.”

So you might be one of the few in the IndyCar Series who remembers going to Pocono when the USAC and CART cars were there. Have any interesting stories at Pocono?

"When we went to Pocono, we would camp at the nearby KOA campgrounds. It had a big game room. Many of the drivers and their families would stay there too. We had family barbeques and hung around together. At the track, there was a drain on the left side of the fence where we would sneak into the garage area. And they never checked it. We would always crawl under there and get into the garages. We would be in the garage area the whole weekend and the guards would never figure out how we got in there. Year after year, we would slide under the fence there and get in. They never check it. Then we would just go hide in the garage area. Then John John (Anderson at Patrick Racing) would put us to work, polishing wheels or something. It’s funny that my future father in law (Jackie Howerton) worked on my dad’s car in 1973 and Gordy’s (Johncock) after that at Patrick Racing. But I never knew Rick as a kid. Rick is younger than me so I didn’t know him really. We have a great photo for our kids now with the winner’s circle at Ontario in 1973 and both of their Grandpas are in the photo. Pocono was just fun to go to due to my family being from New Jersey and my dad ran well there too. (2nd in 1975, 3rd in 1976 and fourth in 1977 and 1978). Plus all of my fans from the modifieds came to Pocono too. There were more Andretti fans at Pocono but we were the next group with the local fans. We had good memories from those Pocono days.”

What did you want to do after high school?

"I had three choices. I could get into racing, go to college or get a real job. But I wanted to work in the racing business. I was hoping that my dad would get me in the door as an official or something in the sport. So I began working with the PPG Pace Car team. It was a good start and I got my foot in the door. Then I helped the ARS (Indy Lights) series with whatever they needed. I did some pit reporting and volunteered in whatever was available. My mom was working registration at the races and I helped in that area for one year. Then I started to learn to do the timing and scoring and it was manual back then. Then when Chip started his team in 1990, I worked for his team and still lived in Colorado then. Then I was working for United Express on the counter at the Aspen airport. It was just 20 minutes from home. So the first year, I just did hospitality for Chip’s team. And then timing and scoring. But then he asked me to handle the travel for the team. I knew how to work with a travel agent and I did that for awhile and I moved out to Indy then. I moved to PacWest then and worked there for ten years. There I learned to do the travel and the accounting, and that was a small team when they started. I did the logistics, the books, ordering uniforms, etc. On the smaller teams, you have to do more. It was years before we hired more people there, so we had to do a lot. I had a lot of experience and I could be like three people at a small team. I worked at Conquest too and then Ed started his team at the end of 2011.”

How is Ed Carpenter Racing different for you?

"It is different because you have an owner and driver in one person. You have one person doing two roles. He and Derrick (Walker) put together a good group of people and that work well together. They have built a trust within the team. It works both ways for us. We trust Ed and he trusts us to do our jobs. That is nice because you don’t have someone micro-managing you all of the time. He lets you do your job and that is appreciated by everyone. It is a small team now that will hopefully grow in the future. The organization of the team is very well done. I have worked for teams that everything was last minute. That is not usually the case here at ECR. I couldn’t do the proper job before because the timing wasn’t correct. Here, we do things in a proper order and proper scheduling. That makes it much easier for me. Everything we do here is planned out. It helps the budget too because you aren’t shipping things overnight or booking last minute flights, etc. Tim (Broyles, team manager) is organized and I try to be as organized as possible. So it helps the team overall. I knew when I came to ECR that we could win and that’s what I wanted to do. I came from a competitive family and, if I was in racing, I wanted to win. Indy is my ultimate goal too. If you ask my brothers what I wanted a birthday present, I told them that I wanted to win the Indy 500. Not as the driver but as part of a team. That is one thing that has eluded my family. Winning the pole was very exciting this year too. I knew the team worked hard to get in position for the pole and winning the race. We were fast and we just needed a few breaks here and there. Being with the team from day one gives you an appreciation for the hard work the team put in for Indy. My family has raced at Indy and I have been on a team that has raced at Indy. That was the second pole for my team in some 20-plus years. It felt good because I was there from day one. You realize how difficult it is to accomplish. There are so many different emotions too when you run for the pole now. Beating the two mega-teams in the shootout was awesome with the same crew we started with.”

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