If you’ve watched any of the “Street Outlaws” spinoff shows that Tennessee’s Jim Howe has been a part of, you know just how competitive his fire burns. Howe has won plenty of rounds bracket racing, and has earned a Limited Drag Radial championship, so he understands the work, the sacrifice, and the cost it takes to park a vehicle in the winner’s circle. Now, Howe is aiming to add some “No Prep Kings” (NPK) series hardware to his resume behind the wheel of his all-new 1967 Camaro known as “The Gaurdian.”
When Howe joined the NPK series last year he was piloting “The Warden”, his purpose-built Limited Drag Radial Camaro. The Warden was built to run larger tires, but not the big 36-inch wide hides that the majority of NPK cars run. Howe’s solution was to run the biggest tire that would fit under his Camaro, the 15×34-inch Big Bubba from Mickey Thompson. The Warden is also a true back-half car that’s 450 pounds overweight per the NPK rules, which is not the best recipe against some of the toughest competition the sport has to offer.
“We were fast before, but what we were running then will get your ass kicked now. Getting rid of the 450 pounds and moving to a car that’s built for no-prep racing was critical for our program. We had a lot of parts breakage in 2021 because of how hard I had to run the car to be competitive. I’m too competitive to back the car off, so that’s why we burnt it up so much,” Howe states.
Howe realized that if he wanted to be a legitimate NPK contender, he’d need a car that was designed for no-prep racing.
“Last August I started buying parts to build a new car for this year. I’ve been friends with David Monday, owner of David Monday Race Cars, for 30 years. He was helping me with The Warden on slicks, so I decided to have him build the new car. I told him I wanted a steel body NPK Camaro, and his current chassis design fit what we needed. The new car would allow us to put a 17×36-inch tire under the rear just like the rest of the teams,” Howe says.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the racing industry when it comes to parts availability and timelines to get projects done. Howe and his partner John Odom’s racing plans were, not surprisingly, impacted by the problems COVID-19 created.
“When John and I decided to partner up for this season, I gave him my spot in line at David Monday’s shop so he could get his car first. The deal was, we thought we’d be testing in early March with John’s car, since he needed more seat time than I did. As luck would have it, David’s entire shop came down with the virus, so that put us behind. Then David had some health issues that pushed things back even further. The parts issues also hit us really hard and put us behind the eight ball,” Howe says.
Monday and his team used an OEM 1967 Camaro body with a VIN tag as the foundation for “The Guardian.” The Camaro is powered by a 521 cubic-inch BAE Hemi that Howe assembled himself. A PSI C-rotor screw blower forces plenty of boost into the engine when Howe mashes the loud pedal. Shifting duties are handled by a Liberty five-speed transmission and Ty-Drive. Howard Moon spec’d out the fuel system, and everything is controlled by a Haltech ECU.
“I’d never run a Liberty transmission, and had always used an MSD box with a Davis Profiler to control the car, so switching to the Haltech was a learning curve. I’ve learned a lot with John’s car and from Patrick Barnhill when it comes to how the Haltech works. The switch to the Haltech is something I wanted to do because of the features the system offers, so it’s been worth it,” Howe explains.
The Gaurdian made its NPK debut at National Trail Raceway in Ohio in early June. Howe had never even fired up the car before unloading it at the track, but that didn’t stop him from pressing it into service. Overall, “The Gaurdian” performed well, and Howe is pleased with the potential the car has displayed.
“It’s a tough deal to come out to these events with a brand new car, no testing, and trying to race your way into the show. You make decisions that are on the safe side to win the round, so you can’t really test to see what the car can do. Now that we’ve got some time off after the Texas race, we’re going to test and get a good handle on the car. In the last part of the season, we want to show what this car is capable of. We need to learn how to be consistently fast,” Howe says.
The name attached to Howe’s new car is very personal in nature. Howe has found a way to honor a loved one with his Camaro and hopefully bring awareness to the world about her situation.
“The car is a tribute to my daughter, Sienna Howe…she was my biggest fan. We were filming in Texas for “America’s List” when she fell ill. Sienna was a cancer survivor, and some complications from her chemotherapy ultimately took her life in January. We named the car ‘The Gaurdian’ in her honor, and I wrote a poem for Sienna that’s on the rear deck lid. The car number I have on the window is her birthday, 4199. We want to tell her story as much as we can, how much she loved life, the things she faced, and hopefully we can bring some awareness about her condition,” Howe states.
Racing is a family affair for Howe and they spend a lot of time together on the road.
“I want to give a big shout-out to my family. We spend over 40 weeks a year on the road racing. My wife Amanda and my son Jimmy, who’s my crew chief, are always there for me. Jimmy is 17 years old, maintains both cars between rounds with the team, and runs in the small-tire class, too. That’s a huge feat for a 17-year-old to undertake. I wouldn’t and couldn’t do this without him. My six-year-old son Blayze is our hype man at the track. We have a good time doing this and as long as we keep having fun, we’ll keep racing,” Howe says.
The second half of the NPK series is going to be a tornado of activity for Howe and his team. Howe’s son Jimmy is going to slide into the driver’s seat of “The Warden” and compete in the small-tire class at NPK events. Amanda is also going to bring her small-tire car out when racing resumes, as well.
“I’m very blessed to do what I do, and our fans have given me a great opportunity. This year we’ve partnered with John to create a great program. John and I have a good recipe. There are a lot of other NPK racers trying to get help too. What John and I have is a true partnership, and I want to be sure that our team is performing at its best. Both his new car and my new car are going to really make some waves the rest of the season,” Howe states.
Jim Howe is a crafty racing veteran that’s capable of doing what it takes to win. The Guardian is a special car for Howe, and he plans on using it to make a run at the NPK title this season.