A drag racing promoter of legendary status is no longer with us.

George Howard, 66, died on Jan. 8, after experiencing a brief illness.

Howard was best known for his incredibly large purses for bracket racing events, namely a $40,000 top prize for an E.T. bracket race. He would later stage a Million Dollar Drag Race at Huntsville Dragway, one of the many drag strips he either owned or managed.

The success of his Million Dollar Drag Race later spawned the B&M Racer’s Appreciation Series.

During his long career, Howard owned and/or managed a number of tracks in his native Alabama, including Montgomery Motorsports Park, Huntsville Dragway, and Lassiter Mountain Dragway. While he had a fondness for E.T. bracket racers, Howard also knew how to attract a crowd. In 2005, he hosted the Rocket City Nationals at Huntsville Dragway. Offering an unheard-of payout to the winner of an eight-car Top Fuel race, Howard packed the tiny eighth-mile track to capacity. Clay Millican won the race and collected $106,000 for his efforts.

"Once you got to know Howard, it was impossible not to like him," Kevin McKenna of National DRAGSTER said in a tribute to Howard. "He treated strangers like long-lost friends and always went the extra mile to help out a racer in need. His desire to help others far outweighed his longing for financial success. For a guy who routinely gambled hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting races, Howard’s sense of humor never wavered. His mood was always upbeat no matter if he packed his track to capacity or peered through raindrops at empty grandstands, and his laugh was contagious."

NHRA's Southeast Division Director Rich Schaefer had the honor of inducting Howard into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

“George Howard forever changed the drag racing industry,” said Schaefer. “He was our P.T. Barnum. George made winning one of his events feel like winning the world’s greatest sporting event ever. Look around the sport of drag racing today, and you’ll see dozens of events trying to re-create the George Howard experience. I will forever miss and admire ‘Mr. Promoter’ George Howard."

Kevin McKenna of National DRAGSTER contributed to this report.