The Northeast short track racing scene lost a giant and cornerstone figure of the sport on Saturday.
Howie Hodge, a fixture as a photographer documenting racing across the country and primarily at Connecticut short tracks, passed away Saturday.
Hodge was 77.
Hodge’s decades in the pits, at tracks across New England almost always with his wife Mary by his side shooting with him, made him known and virtually beloved by all around the sport.
“Twenty years from now that’s where people will look to tell the history of the decades that Howie worked,” longtime New England racing historian, journalist and public relations representative Peter Zanardi said. “He’s the guy. He was the rock. He’s the guy that when you need a picture from Stafford in 1987, that’s how you’d go to. … When you figured how many photos he took and sent to a plethora, a literal plethora of media outlets. … It’s amazing.
“One of the things that always impressed me about people is how some come to understand the role they’re playing. With Howie, I don’t know when he became aware of the role he was playing in our sport, but when he did, he understood it completely.”
Hodge and his wife were inducted in the Eastern Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 7.
“I’m totally flabbergasted by this,” Hodge said that night. “It’s beyond my belief that doing what we enjoy and love so much for so many years, to get an honor like this.”
“He has captured decades of the history of New England auto racing with his photography,” longtime motorsports journalist Dick Berggren said. “His contribution is beyond measure. We know history by pictures and he took great ones.”
In a sport where some level of ego seemed to be carried by all, whether it be the athletes, crew members or even media and officials, Hodge forever proved one of the most modest figures despite his legendary status.
“As a public relations guy, when I was at Stafford [Motor Speedway] and later [the New London-Waterford Speedbow], it was always such a great thing to have him there because you knew he was going to cause no problems,” Zanardi said. “Some photographers came in making this demand this and that demand and wanted you to do all kinds of things for them. All Howie ever wanted was access.”
Hodge is survived by his wife Mary and son Kevin.