By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

Young Hartsville racer Garrett Dies says he has a “winning mind-set.”

But even when he doesn’t win, he tries to look on the bright side.

“I didn’t win a feature race last season, but I think it was still a successful year,” says Garrett, a 17-year-old Trousdale County High junior who wrapped up his first full season in Highland Rim Speedway’s tough Lake Model division.

“I won three heat races and had two top-three finishes and two top-fives, and I learned a lot,” he says. “From that standpoint it was a good year. We’ve got a lot of positives to build on going into this season.”

Garrett’s dad Roy, a retired racer, agrees.

Submitted photo
Hartsville’s Garrett Dies, with help from his dad Roy, is preparing for a new racing season.

“I was very pleased – and surprised – by how well he did,” says Roy, who competed at Highland Rim, Fairgrounds Speedway and Beech Bend, Ky., from 1987-2001. “Garrett did a great job in a new division. I thought it would take him longer to adjust, but he’s a fast learner.”

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

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

Garrett says one of the highlights of the season was being paid a compliment by Mark Day after a close finish. Day, a veteran driver from Clarksville, has arguably been Middle Tennessee’s top racer for the past two decades.

“Mark came over and congratulated he on how hard I raced him,” Garrett says. “Coming from a great driver like him, that was pretty special.”

The past season was also special because it marked a comeback for Garrett after he sat out most of the previous season with an injury. He broke a leg early in 2017 in an ATV accident.

“I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed racing until I had to sit out,” he says. “I couldn’t wait to get back on the track. I didn’t go to any races while I was out. I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a spectator.”

Garrett is so consumed by racing that he forgoes competing in other sports. Between going to school, working on his race car and holding down a job at a local grocery, he has little time for anything else.

“It keeps me pretty busy,” he says, “but I like it.”

“He’s a hard worker,” Roy says, “which is why I try to support him in every way I can. If he’s willing to work this hard, I want to help him. Right now we’re re-building the car and making some changes that I think will help us run better.”

Among the top competition Garrett will face at the Rim this season is young Lebanon racer Hunter Wright who last year captured championships in two divisions.

“Hunter is a great racer,” Garrett says. “He and drivers like Mark Day are tough to beat. That’s what makes it challenging.”

Garrett began racing Quarter-Midgets at age eight and advanced through the ranks to the Late Model division. He remains as enthusiastic as ever.

“I’ve always enjoyed racing, and I get more into it every year,” he says. “This could be a big season for us, and I’m anxious to get started.”

Highland Rim Speedway: Track owner Jerry Criswell, who bought out partner Roger Cunningham of Mt. Juliet, is optimistic about the track’s future as he prepares for this spring’s season opener.

He says young racers like Garrett and Hunter Wright account for much of that optimism.

“They represent the sport’s future,” Criswell says. “They are great kids as well as great race drivers, and I’m proud to have them representing our track.”

Meanwhile at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, negotiations are underway to finalize a lease agreement between Metro and a new partnership with a Bristol Motor Speedway management team. Track operator Tony Formosa says the partnership will signal some major renovations at the 60-year-old track and return some NASCAR races.