The career of young Hartsville racer Garrett Dies is picking up speed -- literally and figuratively.
Garrett, a senior at Trousdale County High, this season will move from the little quarter-mile track at Highland Rim to the bigger, faster five-eights-mile oval at historical Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, where racing legends have been born for over 60 years.
"The Rim taught me how to race, and now it's time to move on," says Garrett, who spent three seasons at Highland Rim Speedway -- renamed Veterans Motorplex last year.
"I appreciate the opportunities the Rim gave me," he says. "I learned a lot racing there."
Garrett has yet to set foot -- or tire -- on the famed Nashville track. He and his father Roy are preparing his new Pro Late Model racer, and expect to be ready when the track opens for pre-season practice.
But although he hasn't raced at Fairgrounds Speedway, he is aware of its reputation.
"Some great drivers have come through there," he says, referring to such NASCAR superstars as Darrell Waltrip, Coo Coo Marlin, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton. "Hopefully I can join them."
Is the big move daunting?
"A little," Garrett says. "It's big jump, and it's always a challenge any time you move up to a bigger track with faster cars. But I look at it as an opportunity that I've been working toward."
"He's done a good job and he's ready for the move," Roy says. "Nashville's going to be tough, but he can handle it."
Roy speaks from experience, having raced at Fairgrounds Speedway from 1987-2001, in addition to competing at Highland Rim and Beech Bend, Ky. Since hanging up his helmet, he devotes his time to assisting 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's race team got a big boost last year when it secured a sponsorship from Lebanon-based G-Team Property Management. His race car carries a "G-Team" logo in tribute to sponsors Jackie and Malinda Gaither, and will make the upwards move with the team to Nashville this season.
"Their sponsorship has been vital," Roy says. "We couldn't race without it, and we want them to know how much we appreciate it."
Garrett will arrive at Fairgrounds Speedway amid an upheaval in management. Tony Formosa Jr., who had operated the Metro-owned track for several seasons, has been replaced by Track Enterprises, a veteran racetrack management company based in Illinois.
Company president Bob Sargent plans to run seven local-division events at the Fairgrounds, along with three national events. Discussions continue about bringing NASCAR back to the Fairgrounds.
"I feel like it's going to work out," Roy says of the new management. "The car we're building will be legal at several other tracks in addition to Nashville, so we will have some options. We're looking at maybe running a few races in Montgomery (Ala.)."
After Garrett graduates from Trousdale High this spring, he plans to attend college and major in mechanical engineering. Tennessee Tech, noted for its engineering school, is at the top of his list. He plans to continue to race while in college.
But that's a long way off. way. There are a lot of miles -- unfamiliar miles, in big, fast circles -- to be traveled before then.
Larry Woody is The Democrat's motorsports writer. Email him at email@example.com.