- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Howard DeHart oral history interview, 2008 March 20
Howard DeHart oral history interview, 2008 March 20
Howard DeHart reflects on his life, the early days of NASCAR, and his career with the Holman Moody racing shop in Charlotte. Growing up on his family's farm in rural Virginia during the Great Depression, Mr. DeHart explains how his interest in mechanics and automobile engineering began at an early age, leading him to help out at famed engine builder L.O. Stanley's garage while he was still in high school. He explains that he originally intended to make a short visit to Charlotte to see Stanley at the Holman Moody shop, and ended up working there for the next forty-five years. Mr. DeHart talks about working in Holman Moody's engine shop and describes the sort of technical work they did, from creating new safety innovations to designing engines that would give their cars the best advantage over the competition. He explains that competition was intense, to the point that they even had a 'mole' in the shop who would leak Holman Moody engineering secrets to rival teams. Mr. DeHart also worked as the pit crew chief for some of Holman Moody's most famous drivers, and he recounts stories related to these drivers and their relationships with the mechanics and pit crews. The driver he worked most closely with was Nelson Stacy. Mr. DeHart explains how he organized Stacy's team and discusses the importance of training and rehearsing the pit stops prior to the races to ensure that every member of the team could trust each other to fulfill their role. Mr. DeHart discusses the future of NASCAR, including the computerization of racecars and the changing economics of the sport due to the increased role of sponsorship. Noting the difficulties female and minority drivers have historically faced, Mr. DeHart is optimistic that NASCAR will have a more diverse roster of drivers in the future. Explaining that the decision regarding who drives is now made by the sponsors, Mr. DeHart suggests that female and minority drivers will be sought out as drivers in the future when sponsors seek to change spectator demographics, and that this will also lift financial barriers that have prevented these drivers from competing in the past.