By Leon George
At Daybreak Farm in Chesterfield County, an unobtrusive sign informs everyone the one-lane wide, asphalt driveway, is for private use. The pastoral serenity of the 90-acre farm quickly makes you forget having to cope with the almost always rush-hour traffic jam of Route 360. It’s easy to think you’re in the heart of farm country. The man-made pond, Lake Howie, immediately catches your eye when you get out of your car. The chicken coop, solar panels, and immaculate landscape hint at a modern-day gentleman farmer operation.
Once the garage door is opened you realize you’re at the home of DiSavino Racing. The car, number 55, is stripped down, every part of it being prepared for the 2018, 12-race schedule at Southside Speedway. Memorabilia from earlier races hang on the garage walls. A retired, half-scale size car sits next to the full-size vehicle they will run at Southside Speedway. The clean garage is a far cry from a grease-pit. The owners already in the mindset of a NASCAR level team.
Howard DiSavino III, Howie, started his racing career on the Arena Racing circuit. He was 13- years-old, driving a half-scale size, 22-horsepower car around an indoor track. Two years later, in 2017, he debuted at Southside Speedway behind the wheel of a full-size, 450-horsepower Late Model Stock Car. If his career moved any faster he would have Dale Jr in his rearview mirror.
The tale of the two Howards began when an eight-year-old Howie came home from school one day with free tickets to an Arena Racing race night. The sights of the cars and the crowd, the sounds of the engines and the cheers of the fans mixed with the fumes from the cars racing around the indoor oval track made it a thrilling night. But, Howie knew from the first moment, that being a spectator wasn’t enough. He wanted to drive. Howard Jr, his dad, likes to joke about how if he only knew then what that night would lead to he may not have taken his son to the races! This is not a father pushing his son to do something; this is a father honoring his son’s passion.
Neither of them knew anything about NASCAR before Howie was bitten with the racing-bug. Howard looked at the sport as a bunch of drivers turning left. A bunch of grease-monkeys hanging around a dirty garage. He quickly realized he couldn’t be more wrong about the sport. The more they learned what needed to be done to be successful, at every stage of the sport, the more they gained an appreciation for the people involved. The science behind a successful car was eye opening. The warmth and comradeship of their competitors and the track’s owners was as humbling as fans becoming tire night sponsors (one race’s tire cost is $650). Howie learned to stick-shift a week before his first Late Model Stock Car race and stalled on the track his first time out. Since then he has become a Top 3 finisher.
“Run Your Car Not Your Mouth” is the credo of DiSavino Racing. It’s easy to use buzzwords like throwback and old school with that credo as your foundation. In many aspects they are fitting descriptions. The entire team is focused on doing what’s right not what’s easy. They view doing it the easy way instead of the right way and trash-talk as shorts cuts to disaster. They refuse to lean on any excuse be it about the car or the other drivers or their inexperience. Excuses are an unwanted distraction. While a win is always the goal, at this level, finishing unscathed is the next best thing. This is not a hobby they dabble in, this is serious business. At a cost of at least $25,000 per year for a 12-race schedule, this is Howie’s college education, and a NASCAR victory is his PHD.
Stock car racing, at every level, is a sponsorship business. To be safe and successful means there is no skimping on cost. Saving a few dollars here and there doesn’t just cause a bad finish, it could cause a serious injury. Top-of-the-line equipment from the fire suit and helmet to the nuts and bolts of the car isn’t cheap. It’s as much about safety as it is about winning. Amsoil and Mass Mutual are two of the national level sponsors along with regional sponsor Colonial First Mortgage to name just a few of the partners of DiSavino Racing. They partner with DiSavino mostly because they believe in the future of a now 16-year-old young man, named Howard DiSavino III. There is always room for like-minded sponsors to partner with the team. The entire DiSavino team is like a second family that comes together off the track as well as on focusing on the races.
They are not so single-minded and focused on racing that they forget their community. Last year, Howie raised over $6,000 for the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign through the American Cancer Society. The fundraising was a personal need as well as a gratifying accomplishment since Howie’s mom has survived three different types of cancer. The family and members of the racing team can frequently be seen helping out at the Chesterfield Food Bank. Howie will be competing in every race at Southside Speedway during 2018. Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty have all driven at Southside Speedway during their NASCAR careers. Howard DiSavino III intends to add his name to that illustrious list of NASCAR drivers that took on the 1/3 mile oval track.
The fans keep them humble. The competition keeps a fire-in-their-belly. Getting to NASCAR keeps them hungry.
Editor’s note: The article was published Jan. 3 in ShortTrackCentral.com. It was reprinted with permission of the author.