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Young racer deals with season-ending injury

Larry Woody • Sep 22, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Young Hartsville racer Garrett Dies has been screeching around racetracks almost from the time he could walk, and never got a scratch.

But last Easter Sunday he had a close call with calamity when he flipped his four-wheel ATV while riding in a field behind his house. Garrett suffered a broken leg that wiped out a promising racing season he had been looking forward to all winter.

“It was really disappointing,” says Garrett, a Trousdale County High sophomore who won Rookie of the Year in the Pro 4s division last year at Highland Rim Speedway and had planned to move up to the top-tier Late Model series this season.

“But at the same time, I realize I was fortunate,” he adds, “because I could have been hurt a lot worse. A friend was video-taping me the day I wrecked, and when I look at the video it’s scary to see how close I came to getting hit in the head.”

Garrett’s dad Roy, a retired driver who has overseen his son’s racing development since he started driving Quarter-Midgets at eight, says the same thing.

“The day we took Garrett to Vanderbilt Hospital there were nine other people there who had been in ATV accidents,” Roy says. “Seven of them had head injuries, and we learned later that one didn’t survive.”

“We lost a racing season, but at least I didn’t lose my son, and that’s that matters. We’ll re-group and start fresh next season.”

Garrett, who had been riding AFVs since he was three years old, is not sure what caused his four-wheeler to flip.

“I was doing some jumps and my foot must have slipped and got caught in the wheel,” he says. “The next thing I knew I had flipped over. At first my leg felt numb, but when I tried to stand up I knew it was broken. My friend ran and got my parents, who took me to a clinic at Lebanon, then on to Vanderbilt by ambulance.”

Garrett hopes his experience will caution all ATV riders of the potential hazards. “An accident can happen in a split-second,” he says.

As soon as he was able, Garrett began working out to stay in shape in hopes of getting back in a race car later in the season. He attended one race at Highland Rim, “but decided I’m not cut out to be a spectator. It’s too hard watching other drivers race and not be able to get out there with them.”

Roy understands his son’s passion for the sport; he raced from 1987 to 2001 at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, Beech Bend, and Highland Rim.

"I enjoyed it and had a lot of fun," Roy says, "but I get a bigger kick out of watching Garrett race than I got from my own racing."

Garrett says his mom Ann shares that enthusiasm, although "she gets kinda nervous when she watches me race."

Race drivers tent to shrug off the hazards of the sport, and Garrett says he ATV accident puts those risks into perspective.

“I’ve never been hurt in a race car, then I break my leg driving a four-wheeler in the back yard,” he says. “It just goes to show that you don’t have to be a race driver to get hurt in a wreck.”

Being forced to sit out the season hasn’t dampened Garrett’s enthusiasm for the sport – in fact, it’s just the opposite.

“They say you don’t miss something until you lose it, and now I know how much I miss racing,” he says. “I’m determined to come back strong next year.”

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Big Rigs at Rim: On Sept. 23 Highland Rim Speedway features a return of the Big Bandit Rigs race that was a hit with fans during a July event.

The track holds a Super Cup Twin 50s event on Oct. 14 that will be televised on MAVTV to be broadcast at a later date.

On Oct. 28 the track hosts its annual Truck or Treat night, in which drivers hand out treats to young race fans who are invited to show off their Halloween costumes.

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Fairgrounds winding down: Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway concludes its 2017 season with the annual All-American 400 weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 1. The feature, which tops off two days of companion events, is one the country’s premier short-track races.

Information about times and tickets is available on the track’s website.

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