Howie Hodge: A Legend Of Local Racing, A Giant Of A Friend, A Heart Of Gold

Howie Hodge (left), Travis Barrett (center) and me in 2011 (Photo: Robin Golembieski)

The short tracks of Connecticut on Saturday lost a legend of the sport. This reporter –  like literally countless others – lost an extraordinary friend.

Howie Hodge was truly the dean of short track racing photographers across the Northeast racing scene. But his legend will be known and remembered in racing far more for the amazing person he was.

To say Hodge was a part of the fabric of racing in Connecticut would be selling the man entirely too short.

The greatness of his heart as an ambassador of racing – and simply as a person – is truly immeasurable. Saying Hodge was a friend to nearly all he met might sound wholly cliché, but there’s nothing artificial or exaggerated about that statement.

Beloved. Cherished. Legendary. Renowned. A cornerstone of the sport. The list of adjectives in the positive one could use to describe Howie is endless. He was that great of a man, that great of a giant and friend to all he touched.

As a 23-year old Hartford Courant sports reporter with no history covering short track racing, I rolled into the pits around Connecticut short tracks in 1995 with a cocksure attitude as a way to seemingly protect myself and disguise that I knew just about nothing of the subject I was covering.

And there was Howie, who was immediately able to not only see right through my front, but also disarm me of that smug swagger with a welcoming kindliness like nobody I had met in the sport up to that point.

He disarmed me with not only a massively humble charm, but an engaging and bitingly sarcastic wit that never wavered. It was like meeting the Pope of racing. There was no way you were going to cop an attitude to the Pope.

And in a sport where some level of even mild arrogance seemingly permeates all involved almost unconsciously, Howie never displayed an ounce of ego. And he could have. He meant that much to the sport. He very easily could have gotten away with being boastful about his status, and yet, that was never even the smallest slice of self-importance displayed in his personality. He was a man known and respected by all, and yet you would never have known that for a second speaking to him.

The history of decades of racing will live forever in his photographs, and he knew what that meant to those involved. And yet, his humble nature about his place within the realm of racing was simply shocking at times. Unpretentious to the infinite power.

In recent years I’ve gained an appreciation for the art that is photography. I’ve learned to look at more than just the subject, but the bigger picture of what’s being chronicled. And it was Howie’s prodding and encouragement that gave me great pride in learning the art he knew so well.

Often times at the track our conversations would swing away from racing and just touch on life. He’d joke with me about the photographs I would post on Facebook away from the track. He would tell me he was jealous. “You kids with those fancy phones” he’d say to me. “I’m not jealous you took those with your phone though, I’m jealous because they’re really good.”

It was an amazing source of pride for me, from a man I looked up to for so many amazing facets of who he was and how he carried himself.

The thought of going back to the local tracks beginning in April is now suddenly – and all too sorrowfully – an awful thought. Visiting with Howie was a ritual event. It was like eating or drinking or breathing. You went to the track, you visited with Howie and you felt better no matter your demeanor before that conversation. I will be lost without him.


  1. wmass01013 says


  2. Walter Newcomb says

    Shawn, Like you have always said: “Howie is the man.” My friend, there are no words that will fill the void in our hearts. Howie would downplay the accolades anytime he was showered with them. “The Dean” fits well but Howie would have never embraced it. He was far too humble for that. Our sport and for that matter, humanity in general has suffered a great loss with the passing of Howie Hodge.

  3. Dick Ayers says

    Shawn, That is a great tribute to a great guy. Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Good job shawn
    This guy sounds like a good man
    We need more good people everywhere

  5. Beautiful tribute Shawn. I’m sure there are many who feel your sentiments. My condolences to all who will miss Howie.

  6. A class piece about an wonderful man. This will probably be one of very few articles ever posted on this site that everyone agrees with.

  7. Fast Eddie says

    A huge loss for the racing community. Shawn, great job with your tribute. I always looked forward to checking out his and his wife’s photos from any events I went to.

  8. Condolences to the Hodge family and all of his friends.

  9. Larry Barnett says

    I always made sure I had a coke for Howie in my cooler. (even though he was trying to limit them). He stopped by for “Just One” at the world series. I will miss his friendship a bunch.

  10. Rick Raducha says

    Perfect Walter…we sure are going to miss him.

    Rick Raducha

  11. Glen Davis says

    Very well said Shawn. Howie was a tremendous mentor, friend and inspiration. He will be sadly missed.

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