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Speedway memorial set.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

Friends and family of Mark Lynn Howard are planning a fitting send-off for the popular auto mechanic and former race car driver who was found slain inside his Eugene business last week.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, they will gather for a memorial service at the Cottage Grove Speedway, where Howard, 50, was a trackside vendor and racing mentor.

Racers will drive a memorial lap in his honor.

"He would have wanted to take a last lap before leaving this world," said Russell Leach, co-owner of the speedway. "Racing has been Mark's whole life."

A friend found Howard dead Friday morning inside his shop, Pro Auto Racing, at the corner of North Seneca Road and Roosevelt Boulevard. An autopsy on Saturday confirmed that Howard had died a violent death, Eugene police Sgt. Scott McKee said.

Police have not disclosed how Howard died, but they believe the killing occurred sometime after 5 a.m., when he arrived at work. The friend reported finding his body at 8:09 a.m. A contractor working across the street reported hearing a scream at 6:50 a.m., but he didn't see anyone leave the building.

"It was clear that his attacker took him by surprise and that he was at work inside the shop at the time," McKee said.

All 10 violent crimes detectives are working on the case, along with burglary, fraud and traffic crash investigators. So far more than 100 tips have come in, but none has led to a suspect.

Howard's death is a big loss to the tight-knit local racing community, Leach said.

` `Big' is an understatement," he said. "Mark was a trackside vendor so he sold everyone their parts, fuel and tires. More importantly, he shared his knowledge with these racers to keep them on the race track."

A Eugene native, Howard graduated from Thurston High School in 1973. He went to work as a mechanic with local car dealerships and eventually opened his own auto repair business.

He got involved in the stock car racing scene and won track championships at speedways in Cottage Grove, Lebanon, Coos Bay and elsewhere.

In the 1980s, he moved into specialty racing parts sales and service and became a recognized expert in the field.

Local and national racing teams sought out his advice, parts and expertise in chassis tuning.

Howard often went to work early and stayed late to make the family business a success.

"It was his life," Leach said. "I think that was when he was most happy."

The morning he was killed, he was working on a specialty car that his 17-year-old daughter planned to race the next morning at the Willamette Speedway in Lebanon.

Friends said he had worked the NASCAR circuit for a while as a member of racer Dave Marcis' pit crew.

He also taught auto repair classes at Junction City and Thurston high schools.

Shane Forte was one of his students in Junction City. Forte won the 2005 limited sprint track championship at Cottage Grove Speedway.

"He helped me actually win my championship this year," Forte said. "He was a great friend to everyone."

He was also a devoted family man who cared deeply for his two daughters, April and Kady, friends said. He and his wife, Janet, had recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

"People aren't just saying Mark was a good guy because they're in mourning," Leach said. "When people tell you he was a great guy, they really mean it."

WITNESSES SOUGHT

Eugene police detectives want to speak with anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity, people or vehicles near Pro Auto Racing, 199 N. Seneca Road, between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday. They also want to hear from people who interacted with owner Mark Howard that morning to establish a timeline of events. People with information can call Detective Dan Braziel at 682-5836 or Detective Jeff Donaca at 682-5193.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Crime; Police have no suspects in the Friday morning slaying of a popular auto mechanic and racer in his Eugene shop
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 11, 2005
Words:658
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