READY TO RACE
Staff Sgt. Chris Cole is all smiles before a race April 16. The Marine placed fourth in the Hot Shot division after literally driving the tire off his racecar.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- If you're looking for Staff Sgt. Chris Cole, start your search at the Huntsville Speedway.

Tires squeal, sparks fly, engines roar and the smell of burnt rubber, oil and fuel fill the air as the sun sets and the Huntsville Speedway comes to life April 16. Behind car 27 sits Cole, living proof of racing's universal appeal.

"I do it because I love the sport," Cole said. "It's an adrenaline rush."

Cole's racing blood runs as red as the car he races around the quarter-mile track every Friday, and his racing hobby is almost as old as his nearly 14-year career in the Marine Corps. He began his racing at 23, trading his truck for a racecar. While life as a Marine has led him around the world and at times away from his love for the track, life as an ammo instructor on Redstone Arsenal has allowed him to get back to his passion and on to the Huntsville Speedway, where he races in the Hot Shot Division.

"I do it for fun, but I like winning," said Cole, who races with the support of his wife and four children. "I like a good challenge."

Every week is a challenge for Cole on the Speedway, a track once driven by racing legends Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Points are tallied throughout the six-month season, making it not just about the race at hand, but also the end goal. From one week to another there's no way of knowing if Cole will place second or blow a tire, but each lap matters.

"They call it a toilet bowl," track owner Martin Pierce said. "When you look at the track it's not that big, but it's an action packed track. You put 10 to 20 cars out there you've got a handful. You put 15 to 20, God help you."

This racing season, Pierce is giving active duty, reserve and military retirees an opportunity to catch all the action for free. May 1 and June 26 have officially been declared Military Night at the track and more dates will be added throughout the season. All other nights, military receive discounted admission.

"It's a tough life for them, especially the young guys," said Pierce, who grew up in strong military connected communities and married into a military family. "It's all about acknowledging their service and saying thank you."

Demolition will be the name of the game May 1, as boats, cars, and more are destroyed, and even angry married couples will be able to take out their aggression by smashing things in a Divorce Demo at the Demolition Derby. Although it's not a race, there will be plenty of action.

"All they do is tear stuff up," Pierce said of the event.

On an average night at the track, wrecks are the last thing drivers want to happen, but for the crowd, according to Cole, wrecks are what they come to see. With cars zooming between 70 to 80 mph at times around the track, it's the close calls and fender benders that get the crowd excited.

"It is a family sport because everybody can get involved if they want to," Pierce said. "When you come and watch it, you will get excited. It may not be your cup of tea, but you will get excited."

Kids at times even have the opportunity to ride around the track with a driver or on the Speedway's mini bus, experiencing firsthand the thrill of the race.

"If you get kids involved at a young age, it helps them in the long run," Cole said. "It's a way to get your kids off the street and at the race track without all the influences. I like it because it's kind of like being a role model without being Dale Earnhardt Jr."

Military night at the Huntsville Speedway will be held at the May 1 Demolition Derby, start time is 7 p.m. Admission is free to all active, reserve and retirees with a military ID, dependents are not included. A second military night will be held June 26, more dates will be added throughout the season. Admission prices are $10 adults, $8 seniors and military (active, reserve and retiree with ID on non-military nights), $5 kids, 6 and under are free. For more information and a race schedule, visit www.huntsvillespeedway.com.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16