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Stock Car Racer Transitions From Asphalt to Dirt Tracks

Cole Anderson of Le Center races his 97 car in the Modified class at Arlington Raceway. (Pat Beck/St. Peter Herald)
Cole Anderson of Le Center races his 97 car in the Modified class at Arlington Raceway. (Pat Beck/St. Peter Herald)


It’s been a tough transition from asphalt to dirt tracks, but Cole Anderson, of Le Center, is having a good time doing what he loves with someone he loves.

Anderson, 22, grew up asphalt short track racing. A native of Northfield, he started stock car racing quarter midgets at Elko Speedway at age 13. After two years there, he journeyed to the highly competitive New Smyrna Speedway in Florida for five years, where he raced super late models in the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) series and later in the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) series.

Dirt Tracks
Cole Anderson of Le Center shows his new Modified car that he races Saturday nights at Arlington Raceway. (Pat Beck/St. Peter Herald)

“I hooked up with [NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion] Mike Skinner, out of Georgia and Florida, and started racing in the southeast, Alabama, California and around the country,” Anderson said. “We won 15 races in one year [and the World Series of Asphalt in 2018]. We were on a pretty good streak there. We were that close to getting into a truck series, and I had an investor that was paying me to race down there back out. After we lost our investor, we couldn’t do it on our own. And after the season ended [in December 2018], I wasn’t in an asphalt car again.”

He started dirt track racing a few years ago in WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, and while traveling around, he met his future girlfriend and fellow racer Kyren Porter and bought her dad Chad’s old car. Now he has a new 2020 SSR Race Car.

They convinced him to do IMCA dirt track racing, and he’s been racing Modifieds for the last two years at Arlington Raceway.

“We first raced the B Mod for a year and and a half, so going to the A Mod was a little bit of an adjustment,” Anderson said. “Her dad really helped me to figure what changes to do. He showed me a lot of things because he’s been racing for 26 some years. He’s a good guy to learn from.”

“The dirt thing is more affordable for myself,” Anderson said. “We can race around home. The traveling was tough going to school. We had to work out a deal with the teachers to miss that much school. I was gone racing Thursdays to Sundays racing down in Florida.”

Now he has settled down in Le Center, where he and Porter run their own business, Custom Apparel, Embroidery and Screen Printing, and he mows lawns on the side, too, in his business, Blades of Glory Lawn Service.

“Now I’m focusing on Arlington because of the expenses of travel and working on my business,” Anderson said.

Working together

Anderson and Porter, who races in the Stock car class at Arlington, work on their cars together in the garage, and his parents come to the race track.

He used to just drive and not have to do the mechanical work.

“Before I would show up for the race track and the car would be there ready to go,” Anderson said. “We had a crew out of Daytona Beach, Florida.”

“Now it’s a lot of work,” added Anderson, who works on the car three to four hours a night. “We spend quite a bit of time washing it, going through everything, checking the suspension, making sure it’s good to go next weekend.

“It’s a little more demanding but more rewarding when we do well. We got one win last year which was pretty surprising. I wasn’t expecting to win at all in the first year. We did run pretty good. We had some good shows. We’re learning a lot and showed some pretty good speed sometimes.

“We went on the Dakota tour last year which was pretty tough. We’re sticking close to home this year with the house and store. We’re going to try and run here as much as we can and see how we end up. We may try to hit a few other shows.”

Anderson won his heat on June 28 at Arlington and in the feature race he started third and passed for the lead on lap 5 when the quarter panel cut his right rear tire down.

Asphalt to dirt

However, going from asphalt to dirt track racing is hard work, Anderson said.

“Everything is different,” he said. “All the adjustments are complete opposite. On asphalt, if you’re going sideways, it’s probably not a good sign. On dirt, you’re supposed to go sideways and sliding around a lot. The whole going sideways aspect and kind of feeling if it’s loose or tight is different.”

Asphalt races also are longer (100 to 300 laps) compared to dirt races (20 laps).

Shorter distances make it more exciting, Anderson said: “No one’s holding back. Everybody’s trying to get to the front right away.”

Asphalt races are more physically demanding, he noted: “It’s more of an endurance thing. You got to be in shape. These are kind of like sprint races. Now that I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, I’m used to 20.”

Dirt Tracks
Cole Anderson of Le Center gets behind the wheel of his Modified race car at Arlington Raceway. (Pat Beck/St. Peter Herald)

Cars also go more than twice as fast and run hotter on asphalt than dirt. Anderson said he reached 160 mph on asphalt and goes goes 60 to 70 mph at Arlington. Movements are a little more jerky on dirt. Asphalt is smoother.

Dirt track cars also are easier to fix, too, Anderson said.

“In asphalt, they’re all fiberglass bodies, so if you wreck a panel, you can’t straighten it out,” he said. “You can get a lot more use out of these aluminum panels. There’s a lot of positives to it.”

Overall, the dirt tracks just make more sense for Anderson at this point in his life.

“I definitely have fun doing both, but the expense part really hurt me on the asphalt part,” he said. “I really enjoy dirt. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun. The racing is fun. It’s cheaper. You can go a lot more places. People are friendly. The only thing I don’t like about dirt is the maintenance and the washing of the car afterward.”

By PAT BECK / St. Peter Herald Sports Editor / APG Media of Southern Minnesota / Posted Jul 14, 2020