SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (March 2, 2017) – You have to chuckle when Colin Garrett says he “has loved racing since he was a kid.” He’s 16 years-old, barely old enough for a drivers’ license.
But don’t let his youthfulness confuse you. He’s focused. He’s driven. And he’s like a sponge, soaking up any bit of racing knowledge near him. Oh, he’s pretty good, too.
When South Boston Speedway opens for its 60th season on March 25, Garrett will begin his second full season in the Limited Sportsman Division at the venerable track, his third of racing.
As a raw rookie last year, he never finished out of the top 10, recorded four top-5 finishes and was fourth in season-ending points. He was far from satisfied, though.
“Personally, I didn’t think it was a very good year,” said the Halifax High School junior. “Everybody else thought I did and they kept telling me that, but a driver is never satisfied.”
Garrett’s racing journey has been quick and unusual. He doesn’t come from a family of racers. He didn’t take what has become a normal route via go-karts. Three years ago, he jumped into a Pure Stock at South Boston Speedway, his first time in a race car of any sorts. He finished eighth in points and immediately decided to make the jump to the Limited Sportsman Division for 2016.
“Before last year I had run nothing but Pure Stocks. I don’t come from a racing family. I just kind of hopped in,” said Garrett. “I’ve always loved racing since I was a little kid. Jeff Gordon was always my favorite.”
Garrett’s parents, Ryan and Jill Garrett, have been supportive, but have some strict guidelines for their racing son, one of five children.
“I’ve got to make As and Bs in school. I can’t get in any trouble. And we have a massive yard and I’m responsible for taking care of that,” Garrett said.
Garrett has little time for trouble. When not in school, he’s at Sellers Racing shops, doing what he can to help maintain his race cars, even though he readily admits turning wrenches is a work in progress for him. On weekends when South Boston Speedway is off this season, he plans to race Late Models at other tracks in the region.
“Most days I’m at the shop, doing what I can do to help and learn about the car. Most of the time somebody has to come back and fix what I’ve done,” said Garrett. “It’s important for me to have that connection with the guys on the team.
Garrett will be running under the guidance of a new crew chief this season as Frank Deiny Jr. returns to the sport after a hiatus of several years. Deiny was the 2002 South Boston Speedway champion, won more than a dozen races at South Boston and was a Late Model terror throughout the region during that period.
But Garrett was in diapers when Deiny was winning races and knew nothing of his new crew chief.
“H.C. (Sellers) told me he had somebody lined up for my crew chief. He said ‘Frank Deiny’.” I said ‘who is that’?” recalled Garrett, who is sponsored by Emrys Properties, Springfield and St. Lawrence Radiology.
Garrett quickly discovered Deiny’s vast racing knowledge during two days of testing at South Boston last week.
“The first run of the day I came in and told him the car was tight. He told me to describe what was happening. I did and he told me ‘the car isn’t tight, it’s something you’re doing’,” recalled Garrett. “He knows so much about racing and the cars, it’s unbelievable. We’ve only worked together for two days and I’m really pleased.”
With the new year, new crew chief and added experience comes increased pressure for the young driver.
“I definitely feel we should be better this year. We’ve got the car and we’ve got the team,” said Garrett.
South Boston Speedway’s 60th season opens on March 25 with the Danville Toyota NASCAR Whelen Late Model Twin 100s, featuring two 100-lap races for the Late Model Stock Division, a 50-lap Limited Sportsman Division race, a 30-lap Budweiser Pure Stock race and a 15-lap Budweiser Hornets race.
There will be an open test date at South Boston Speedway on Saturday, March 18. Gates open at 9 a.m. with practice beginning at 10 a.m. There will be a break at noon for lunch with practice resuming from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The full 2017 schedule can be found at southbostonspeedway.com.