Behind the Laptop: Congratulations Rob Howden
Karting journalist celebrates 20th anniversary of HMG
This week at the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals, racers from all around the world are set to converge on the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for what is the largest karting event to date. No where around the globe will you find over 500 drivers vying to etch their name in history for the 22nd edition of the race. This week is also a celebration for Rob Howden, the owner and publisher of eKartingNews.com. The official voice of the SuperNationals is set to call his 22nd straight event, while also marking the 20th anniversary of the Shifter Kart Illustrated.
It was in 1998 when Howden was the Editor-at-Large of National Kart News, one of the leading magazines for the sport in North America. After a two-year stint with the Indiana-based rag, Howden elected to leave his position due to differences with the direction of the magazine. The Canadian spent a few weeks thinking about the future before he began hitting the phone with an idea. With just $28 dollars in the bank, Howden was able to lock in 11 advertisers for the first seven issues of the new Shifter Kart Illustrated. The magazine was focused solely on shifterkart racing, both in North America and around the world. The new SKUSA ProMoto Tour was the focus, breaking down the SuperPro divisions, the rising stars and, of course, the young drivers in the Junior ranks.
The magazine became a staple in the sport, and helped to spotlight the sport’s stars, any of which we see today in the professional ranks of motorsports – Scott Speed, AJ Allmendinger, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, and Robert Wickens. It also featured those who continue within the karting industry today – Alan Rudolph, Ron White, Memo Gidley and more. The first to be featured on the cover was Canadian Michael Valiante, with the issue previewing the 1999 ProMoto Tour. The launch of the magazine, thanks to a handful of people including ‘Assistant Editor’ Jeff Deskins, was the SKUSA SuperNationals 2 in November of 1998 at the X-Plex. And the rest is history.
Howden expanded is company Howden Communications Inc. to welcome two other magazines – Speedway USA and Formula Car Magazine. One focused on the dirt oval scene in the United States, while the other was a branch of SKI, highlighting those former karters entering the open wheel formula car ranks. Each had its own uniqueness, with FCM having the longer life of the two thanks in part to the website eFormulaCarNews.com. That was due, in part, to bringing in motorsport guru Allan Craighead. The fellow Ontario journalist was the perfect person to be the point-man to highlight the junior open wheel community. Eventually, the magazine turned into a website, and continued on until Craighead was diagnosed with cancer. FCM and eFCN was ‘CraigAlHead’, and there was no replacing him. Craighead’s battle ended in 2015, and he remains in our thoughts each and every day.
My connection with Howden began in my early 20’s as a board member with Michigan Kart Club. I was part of developing a regional racing series and contacting industry members to sponsor classes or advertise in our rulebook. Howden was an easy sale, landing him for two class sponsorships and a quick $500. That conversation led to me working as a road racing correspondent with Shifter Kart Illustrated, providing 300 words or so a month on events. It wasn’t until 2003 that I really became part of the family when I joined Howden, Marc Miller and Mike Maurini on a road trip from Michigan to attend the Sebring 12 Hours and a SKUSA ProMoto Tour event in Florida. Miller was working part-time for HCI in advertising sales while building his racing career. Maurini was doing the same, learning the craft of the media business fresh out of college. The week-long trip was the beginning of my passion for being part of this crazy world called motorsport journalism. The 2004 season was monumental for me and SKI. At the Rock Island Grand Prix, I was invited by Howden to join he and then-editor Tim Blaney to launch the new branding of the magazine – Super Kart Illustrated. That, in turn, was followed by me locking my full-time position with the new ‘Howden Media Group’ when Rob offered me the position of managing eKartingNews.com.
Today, I am making my 14th trip to the SuperNationals to cover the event for EKN. It all begins, however, 20 years ago when Rob had a vision for what karting journalism could be and where the sport was going. Thank you to the many industry members that have support SKI and EKN over the last 20 years. Without you, none of this was possible. To the many who have put in the time to make both the magazine and the website what it is, we tip our cap to you as your vision helps make the product that much better.
To you Rob, there is not much more to say other than thank you, and congratulations. Here’s to at least 20 more!