By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

The rabbits are chasing the fox at Highland Rim Speedway.

Eager young drivers Garrett Dies of Hartsville and Hunter Wright of Lebanon are pursuing wily veteran Mark Day in the track’s Pro 8 Late Model division, and although the season is in the early stages, they are hanging tough.

“Both young men are doing an excellent job,” says track owner Jerry Criswell.

“They have really come into their own. For many years Mark Day has been one of the best drivers around, not just locally but in the entire Southeast. He’s an extremely smart racer – I compare him to David Pearson – and when these young drivers a third his age can keep up with him, it shows how well they’re doing.”

Submitted photo
Hartsville’s Garrett Dies poses with sponsors Jackie Gaither, left, and Kevin Gaines.

As of June 15, Wright, 18, leads the division points standings. Day, 57, of Clarksville, is second and Dies, 17, is sixth.

“I like racing against Mark,” says Dies, a junior at Trousdale County High.

“But,” he adds with a laugh, “I don’t like getting beat by him.”

Wright, in addition to defending his Legends Series track championship this season, also is competing in Highland Rim’s more advanced Pro 8 Late Model division. He says getting an opportunity to race against veteran drivers such as Day will make him a better driver.

“I enjoy the competition,” he says. “That’s how you learn. I’m competitive, and I like the challenge.”

Dies is coming off a winless season in the track’s Late Model division. Although he didn’t win a feature race last year, he captured three heats and posted three top-ten finishes.

“It wasn’t a bad year,” he says, “but this year I want to win races.”

Young drivers sometimes have different viewpoints about racing against veterans who not only have an edge in experience, but also often have superior cars and equipment. On one hand it’s challenging, but on the other hand it can take a toll on a young racer’s confidence.

“I won’t let losing to Mark discourage me,” Garrett says. “I know how good he is, and that losing to him is nothing to get down about. But it also makes me determined to beat him eventually. My goal every race is to finish ahead of the No. 8 (Day’s car). If I do that, I’m probably going to win the race.”

Garrett says Day is a gracious winner.

“Just about every time he wins, he comes over and tells me I ran a good race,” he says. “Coming from Mark Day it’s a real compliment. I’ve been a fan of his ever since my dad and I met him at Montgomery (Ala.) Speedway when I was six or seven.”

Garrett predicts some heated battles between himself and Hunter as they chase Day.

“Hunter is a great racer and we really go at it,” he says. “He is fun to race against.”

Garrett’s dad Roy, a former racer, is pleased with his son’s progress.

“He has done a good job,” says Roy, who over the years raced at Highland Rim Speedway, Fairgrounds Speedway and in Beech Bend, Ky. He competed from 1987-2001, and now devotes his time to working with his son’s team.

Reflecting on his own career, Roy says, “I get a bigger kick out of watching Garrett race than I did when I was racing myself.”

Garrett says his mom Ann shares their enthusiasm, although “she gets kinda nervous when she watches me race.”

Garrett got a big boost earlier this year when he secured a sponsorship from Lebanon-based Cumberland Reality. His car carries a “G-Team” logo in tribute to sponsors Jackie Gaither and Kevin Gaines.

“We’ve got a lot of good things going for us,” Garrett says. “I expect a good season.”