Columbus resident Jim Howe has been around racecars since he was 6 years old. His father, Gene Howe, co-owned a car with Roy Faulkner of Columbus, and Larry Exner of Columbus was behind the wheel.
“It was definitely a different era back then,” Jim Howe said of the late 1960s. “My dad was the crew chief on the racecar and did a lot of the fabrication back then. You built your own stuff. My dad had a small garage and worked on passenger cars for people as well as racecars.
“We would go to the races at Twin Cities and I wasn’t allowed to go to the pits, so I sat in the stands and tried to keep track of the running positions of all the cars. I always liked numbers and so I found it wasn’t too hard to figure out the finishing positions.”
Howe, 56, a 1977 graduate of Columbus East High School, got his start in racing by scoring the races and writing press releases at several race tracks. Howe worked at Twin Cities, Charlestown, Whitewater Valley and Winchester Speedways.
After graduating from Indiana State University with a journalism degree in 1981, Howe moved into the media side of racing, assuming a news editor position at National Speed Sport News (Ridgewood, New Jersey), the “bible” of motorsports. He worked there for two years and then served as the American Speed Association’s public relations director and assistant chief scorer from 1983 to 1987.
He left full-time racing in late 1987, but the sport still remained in the picture. In 1988, Howe served as the Director of Scoring for Stock Cars at the famed Winchester Speedway, working for longtime friend Roger Holderman. Following the 1991 season and Holderman’s death, Howe went into a self-imposed retirement, but that retirement ended in 2000 when he tried his hand at karting with daughter Christina in the Southern Indiana Racing Association (SIRA).
Howe served on SIRA’s Board of Directors (2001-03) and as rules consultant in 2004. Christina’s 2004 season ended early with illness, but she was replaced by 13-year-old Dylan Brock, who rewarded Jim with his first karting victory.
This gave Howe the idea to form his own company to get young drivers interested in the sport. Jim Howe Motorsports LLC says its mission statement is to “turn kids into champions” by introducing them to kart racing.
“Karting is something I like,” Howe said. “It is very competitive, but yet pure because the karts are mostly the same and the technology isn’t really that difficult to work on or understand. It really comes down to tuning the kart and working with your driver to get comfortable and fast.
“We operate as an amateur go-kart racing team, catering to young drivers wanting to learn all aspects of motorsports. We take young men and women, typically between the ages of 9 and 14 years old, and teach them everything needed to advance to the national level of kart racing.”
“Howe’s racing team helps train youngsters driving techniques, chassis and setup information, feedback skills for working with engineers and crew chiefs, and understanding data racing machines. For the 2016 season, Howe has hired 12-year-old Jordan Fresher to lead his team.
Fresher, who lives in Avon, will run a full karting schedule for the first time in his short career. Fresher is the son of Tom Fresher, also of Avon, and Mary Fresher of Plainfield. He is a seventh-grade student at Avon Middle School North who lists orchestra and math as his favorite subjects.
The younger Fresher is in his second year of racing. He drove a kart for his father in 2015, running Yamaha Rookie and Junior Sportsman events at the historic Whiteland Raceway Park and New Castle Motorsports Park. He finished sixth in the Junior Sportsman Tony Stewart Racing Series championship at WRP.
He will drive the Howe team’s Junior (1) Sportsman mount, affectionately named “Mo,” in 2016. He will run for rookie of the year in the Southern Indiana Racing Association (SIRA) Midwest Championship street circuit along with selected events at Whiteland and other tracks. The team runs Birel Chassis karts with Yamaha engines from Brian Seward and his BBS Race Engine Development shop.
“I like going fast and meeting other people who love racing,” Jordan Fresher said. “And I’m looking forward to becoming a better driver and driving a kart that is better tuned next year when I drive for JHM.”
“With 2015 being our first year in karting, I quickly learned the value of receiving help and advice from those who have experience,” added Tom Fresher, a senior operations engineer at Wabash Valley Power.
The team will get its first “shakedown” test sessions with Jordan Fresher behind the wheel in mid- to late March at CERAland Park in Columbus as well as at Whiteland. The team’s first of its 15 scheduled events will be April 9 at Whiteland.