Howard Commander was born in Albany on July 13, 1944, and has lived in New Lebanon ever since. Howard describes his family growing up as “really poor farmers,” and remembers his mother worrying about having enough food to feed the family. When Howard was around seven years old, a group of men offered his family $500 per month to rent the large flat cornfield across the street from their house. Howard’s uncle accepted, and the men began digging up the field. Eventually, the men left, leaving the family with $2800 worth of liens and a dirt racetrack. Howard’s family had to sell their family car in order to pay off the liens. They were thrust into the world of stock car racing.
Around age 12, Howard began working the concession stand at the Speedway, under the instruction of his uncle. He did so well that his uncle put him in charge of pit concessions and selling tickets at the back gate. When he was 17, Howard’s uncle decided to leave the Speedway, and Howard took over as the pit steward. “To be a pit steward at 17 and handle all the men, it was a brutal job,” Howard remembered. His duties at the time included running the grader, promoting, and handle the whole racetrack. He has been doing this job ever since.
Since its inception, the Lebanon Valley Speedway has grown from a small country speedway to a major dirt track. The track hosts major races, and brings in about 300,000 visitors annually. Howard has been chosen as National Promoter of the Year 13 times, more than anyone else in the country. “I’m successful because I work at it every hour of every day,” he says, “I work very hard at it, and I make friends and I don’t hurt people.”
You can learn more about the Lebanon Valley Speedway at http://www.lebanonvalley.com/.