Cole Glasson’s life has taken a left turn — one the racer from Corinth hopes to steer right into NASCAR’s winner’s circle.
Never mind that he’s 12 years old and weighs only 75 pounds.
The Crownover Middle School seventh-grader is one of racing’s up-and-comers. He has a two-year contract to drive on the JEGS/Champion Racing Association All-Stars Tour to prove it.
“Cole is exactly the type of young, talented driver we like to provide opportunities to in our driver development program,” former NASCAR driver Andy Ponstein said when announcing the signing of Glasson to Andy Ponstein Racing. “He did an outstanding job with the test in December at Anderson Speedway, and the entire crew was impressed with what they saw.”
In two years, Glasson has gone from professional go-karting to dirt track midgets to full-size late-model stock cars on asphalt ovals.
“I used to dread racing on ovals,” Glasson said. “I thought it’d be boring, but when I did it [racing midget cars], it wasn’t. I used to think my profession was going to be Formula One, like the IndyCar Series, but now I’m thinking NASCAR.”
After winning 23 percent of the go-kart races he entered since he began racing as a 5-year-old, Glasson raced eight times against adults in last summer’s USAC Ford Focus Midget Series, finishing third his last time out and sixth for the season among rookies.
In December, Glasson went with his father, Tim Glasson, and agent, Tonya McCallister, to Anderson Motor Speedway in Williamston, S.C., to test-drive for Ponstein’s team. The contract he received was his seal of approval from Ponstein, who started 26 Nationwide Series races between 2004 and 2011.
“Cole has significant experience and accomplishments for such a young age and is a pleasure to work with,” said McCallister, president of MPM Marketing. “He is going to be a positive representative for companies on and off the track, and we are looking forward to building some great partnerships.”
Racing is in Cole’s blood. His mother is Wendy Glasson, and her father, Robert Morris, raced sprint cars throughout northeast Texas. Two of Cole’s uncles also raced.
“My dad took me to the Indianapolis 500 when I was 5, and I loved it,” Cole said. “He asked me, do I want to race?, and the answer was a definite yes.”
Cole’s trophy wall at home includes a photo of him suited up for his first go-kart race. The kart isn’t much bigger than a small push mower, but it’s bigger than the driver.
The kid with a need for speed doesn’t like sitting still. He was runner-up for a national championship at age 6 and collected the first of his three national go-kart titles by the time he was 8.
Karting required frequent travel to California for races — trips for the entire family, including 16-year-old sister Alexa. Competing in midgets required a waiver of the minimum age requirement of 12.
The Champion Racing Association requires drivers to obtain special certification if they’re under 15. If Glasson gets it, he will be the youngest driver ever on that circuit.
“After completing the CRA driver approval process for drivers under the age of 15, Cole will begin testing immediately with the team to prepare for the season opener on April 7 at Illiana Motor Speedway,” Ponstein said in a news release.
The CRA All-Stars Tour includes 13 races on 11 tracks in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, with 24 to 28 cars in each field.
Cole knows he’s in for several big changes. After driving a 900-pound, 185-horsepower open-wheel midget in 2012, the late-model he will drive for Ponstein can turn out 400 horsepower and weigh 2,800 pounds.
Race distances will increase from about 30 laps in midgets to 100 laps on the All-Stars Tour.
“I’ve never had a closed car before,” Cole said. “Just the size of the car is a big adjustment. It probably weighs two to three times more than the ones I’ve been in. And since it’s a lot bigger, I have to definitely keep my upper body strong.
“The races typically last an hour or so, and since it’s not a road course, you’re always turning left. That puts more pressure on your arm.”
The young driver builds upper body strength in the weight room at school and in a small home gym. He builds endurance by running 30 to 40 miles per week with Lake Cities Cross Country.
“The most important thing is seat time,” Cole said. “You just have to be in the car as much as you can. And you have to take advantage of practice to work with the tuners and make sure you get the car right.
“Then it’s all on the driver to drive it to the capacity of the car.”
Glasson’s next goal is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The age requirement there is 16.
In the meantime, he’ll keep growing his brand and picking up new fans. There’s no age limit for that.
“When I’d race in the midgets, we’d have autograph sessions. All these little kids would come up to me and want autographs,” Glasson said. “I guess they look up to me because I’m a little kid taking on older drivers.”
And how do the older drivers feel?
“Actually, racing against me makes them want to win more,” he said. “They don’t want a 12-year-old to beat them.”