Fresh off winning Rookie of the Year honors last season at Highland Rim Speedway, young Hartsville racer Garrett Dies is preparing to take another stride in his fledgling career.
Garrett plans to make a major jump this season from the lower-level Pro 4s division in which he raced last year, into the Late Model big leagues.
“I’m excited about it,” said Garrett, a freshman at Trousdale County High School.
“I’ll be racing against some great drivers that I’ve grown up following. The competition will be tough, but I believe the only way to get better is to race against the best. You’re only as good as your competition.”
“I think he’s ready,” said Garrett’s dad Roy, who raced for several years at Highland Rim, Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, and Beech Bend, Ky., before retiring in 2001.
“He did more last year than I did in 17 years,” Roy added with a chuckle.
Last season Garrett won three features and eight qualifying races, and finished second in the championship standings.
“We had a good season and I’m pretty happy with it, but I would like to have done better,” he said. “As a racer you’re never satisfied. I’d liked to have won the championship.”
Preseason practice will be vital in preparation for his big jump.
“There’s a big difference in racing Late Models and what he’s been racing,” Roy said. “The cars are different and the speeds are higher. It’s going to take some getting used to. That’s why we want to get in as much practice time as possible.”
“I’ll probably be a little nervous at the start,” Garrett said, “but I won’t feel intimidated. Once the race starts, you’re so focused on driving the car that you don’t have time to think about anything else.”
Mt. Juliet’s Roger Cunningham, co-owner of Highland Rim Speedway, said talented young local racers like Garrett and defending Legends Series champ Dylan Fetcho of Lebanon represent the future of the track.
“Not only are they good racers, but since they come from the area they generate a lot of local interest and fan following,” Cunningham said. “Local drivers are great for local racing. We’ll also have several drivers coming in from other areas – including some from out of state – and that makes for some good rivalries.”
In addition to racing in the Rim’s premier division, Garrett also plans to run a number of races this summer in a regional series in North Carolina.
“It will be fun,” he said. “It’ll be exciting to race on a new track against some different drivers.”
Racing in North Carolina will also give Garrett a chance to make a name for himself outside the confines of Ridgetop. Such exposure is vital for young racers who aspire to someday race professionally.
“Hopefully we’ll get some sponsors’ attention,” Roy said. “Like every other race team, we can use all the sponsorship help we can get.”
Garrett is polite, poised and personable – what sponsors look for in a representative – and last season he added performance to his resume. That was a big step in his racing career. Now he’s ready to take an even bigger one.