Yes this is an old
article--but it took a lot of time, so we're reusing it.
Hopefully we'll find more time to write a few more like it in 2010.
Shane Cottle and Dustin Hueston; Mini Sprints Provide Next
Step for Tomorrow's Star
Shane Cottle and Dustin Hueston at Lawrenceburg Speedway '08
For many racers the American Mini Sprint
Association is a stop rather than a destination. Over the years the A.M.S.A.
has been a revolving door for young talent—with go-kart and quarter midget
drivers utilizing the series as a stepping stone towards midgets and
full-size sprints. “It’s one of the main reasons Lawrenceburg Speedway has
formed such a tight relationship with this group. It’s a training ground
for our sprint car class. In the last year or so I’ve watched no less than
five young drivers successfully make the step into sprint cars”, commented
Lawrenceburg’s Dave Rudisell.
While there have been quite a few American
Mini Sprint Association drivers that have tasted success at higher levels in
the sport, the group’s current poster boy has to be Shane Cottle. To date
Cottle has seen victory lane in midgets, sprint cars and silver crown cars
and has earned a position as one of the top open wheel shoes.
Reviewing the long list of victories on
Cottle’s resume and having had the opportunity to watch the skill he
exercises in piloting an open wheel car around the track, it is hard to
imagine Cottle as a beginner. It just seems that drivers like Cottle just
appear. But nothing could be farther from the truth. His website even
lists one of his most embarrassing moments in racing as flipping his mini
sprint during the pace lap. Like most of today’s top drivers Cottle was
not an overnight success—he has a history in the sport that dates back to
his start in quarter midgets when he was knee high to a grasshopper. He has
suffered his share of set backs and has soldiered on. Shane Cottle is a
good story for any young driver with hopes of a career in the sport.
Cottle is one of the American Mini Sprint Association's success stories.
Although Cottle started down an open wheel
path in 1980 as a quarter midget driver, his next step would be into a
modified where he raced in Danville Illinois. As fate would have it
after just a couple short years in a modified, Cottle would make the switch
to mini sprints. A family friend had a mini sprint sitting that was sold to
Cottle and his father. The pair began racing the car with the American Mini
Sprint Association (AMSA) in 1990. At the time the group was competing in
events throughout Ohio, Indiana
and Illinois, including Danville, Illinois where Cottle had competed in
his modified. A quick study, by 1992 Cottle had earned an AMSA championship
and decided he was ready to go sprint car racing.
Cottle pictured in the a mini sprint at Bloomington in 1991.
Cottle and his father purchased a winged
sprint car and began campaigning at tracks like Haubstadt and Bloomington.
The pair quickly discovered that financially the step was a bigger one than
they were ready for and returned to the mini sprints. Like many other
racers have found, when the financial demands of sprint cars and midgets
have become too much, the mini sprints provide a competitive opportunity to
go racing on many of the same tracks where the big cars compete at a
fraction of the cost. While Cottle moved back into the mini sprints, he
never gave up on the dream of racing the sprints and midgets.
Cottle pictured with his family and the Gross mini sprint in 1996.
The mini sprints continued to allow Cottle
to develop as a driver. During the next several years he won several
features and was a consistent fixture in the top five where he traveled with
the American Mini Sprint Association circuit that included tracks like
Danville, Liberty, 35 Raceway, Montpelier, Lawrenceburg and many others.
Competition was intense during those years as he competed against drivers
like Jamie ‘Hud’ Horton and Larry Bland who currently owns TP Wings.
Cottle not only owes a lot to the mini
sprints as a training ground, but also as a match maker. During Cottle’s
time in mini sprints he met fellow mini sprint competitor Danelle Sutton.
Danelle raced with the American Mini Sprint Association for 2-1/2 years until
a bad crash ended her driving—however she went on to become Mrs.
Shane Cottle. Danelle also spent three years as the score keeper for
the A.M.S.A. Today the pair have two children, including a son and a
Cottle not only has racing to thank for his career, but also his spouse.
Shane pictured with his wife Danelle-who is also a former
Like so many talented drivers, Cottle knew
that making it in the sprints and midgets was beyond his family’s financial
means. The next step would require assistance. During his time running in
the AMSA Cottle continued to seek rides in the midgets and sprints with
sporadic success, but his real break came when he hooked up with Kevin Gross
and family. They campaigned a mini sprint together and eventually decided
to make the step up to midgets. A career that thus far consisted mostly of
mini sprint racing with a few starts each season in a sprint or midget got a
If there is a single thread that runs
through Cottle’s career it is the value of perseverance. Unfortunately we
have reached a point where too many drivers feel defeated if they aren’t
winning races in a midget or sprint car by the time they are 18. Reviewing
Cottle’s finishes since 1993 you will see that it wasn’t until just a few
years ago that he became a consistent fixture in the sprints and midgets.
While there were top five finishes and even a couple of victories through
the early years—most seasons you could count the number of midget and sprint
car starts on one hand. By most people’s accounts it wasn’t until he hooked
up in the Edison ride in 2004 that Cottle really broke into the big time.
It was in the Edison car that he earned a Gas
City championship. Ironically 2004 was also the first season that Cottle
received any consistent seat time in a sprint car—running in 41 races. Over
the past few seasons Cottle’s number of starts have continually grown
to a point where they now number over 70 events each season.
Today Cottle is in one of the best positions
of his career as a pilot for Contos Racing. The Contos stable includes both
sprint and silver crown cars allowing him to spend time in both series.
Aside from his ride with Contos, Cottle has also made a handful of starts in
a midget for Darryl Saucier.
As a product of the mini sprints, Cottle is
very complimentary of the series. He believes that the cars are an
excellent step in any driver’s development offering a unique opportunity to
experience the handling characteristics and tracks of the full size sprints
and midgets at a fraction of the cost. Thanks to the mini sprints the most
difficult part of the transition to sprints and midgets was to be found
outside the cockpit—in his search for a ride. While the sprints and midgets
have additional power resulting in greater speeds, Cottle explained that the handling
characteristics remained fairly consistent.
A New Crop of Drivers Gains Experience in
Just as Shane Cottle has reached the peak of the sport, a whole new crop of
young talent is making their ascent. At the mid-way point in the season,
eighteen year old Dustin Hueston has a strangle hold on the AMSA’s season
long points championship with four victories and several top five finishes.
Hueston is hopeful that like for so many others, AMSA success will equal a
shot at seat time in a sprint car or midget.
Hueston’s career as a racer started not on
four wheels, but two as a BMX competitor. A neighbor that let an eight year
old Hueston take a spin on his bicycle sparked a love for racing that
continues to this day. At nine years of age Hueston began racing bicycle
motocross. For the next three years Hueston and his family would spend
their time traversing the Midwest as
they chased the BMX circuit. At the conclusion of Hueston’s BMX career he
was ranked 14th in the nation.
Hueston’s exit from BMX racing at 12 years
of age would come as the result of another free spin—but this time on four
wheels. One of his father’s friends had a quarter midget that had been
sitting around for some time. Once again Hueston was offered a free spin in
the car. It only took one practice session and he was hooked. Additional
practice sessions followed along with a training session at Mini Indy. When
he successfully passed the training session it was determined that he was
ready to go race. Hueston proved a quick study in the quarter midget
earning a victory in his very first outing. The family friend was
gracious enough to allow him to campaign the car for the next year.
Like so many of today's open wheel racers, Hueston got his start in
Quarter midget racing is extremely
competitive and surprisingly expensive. Hueston and his father Ron
determined that their continued emersion in this sport would require an
upgrade to their equipment. While they managed to upgrade equipment, they
remained on a budget that was considerably less than many of their fellow
competitors. Perhaps the hallmark of Hueston’s quarter midget career and
what ultimately lead to his mini sprint ride was the ability he and his
father possessed to make the most of what they had. The Hueston’s
upgraded equipment and determination earned them 2 Indiana State
Championships and two local championships in Heavy Honda and Heavy 160 prior
to Dustin’s 16th birthday.
Hueston pictured at speed during quarter midget competition at an indoor
In a day and age when the key to advancing
seems to be more closely linked to one’s pocketbook than their on-track
talent and determination—Hueston’s move into mini sprints is a refreshing
one. While Hueston and his father had their heads down concentrating on
their quarter midget effort, their actions spoke louder than words gaining
the notice of another quarter midget owner, Ron Green. Green’s grown
children were no longer involved in quarter midget racing, however his love of
auto racing kept him involved as a car owner. While Green was supporting
another quarter midget racer, he was quietly observing the Huestons.
“Dustin showed a lot of on track talent. Both he and his father seemed to
work so well together. Most of all I could tell he was an upstanding young
man. They are really the kind of folks you would like to help”, commented
After some preliminary discussions Green
approached the Hueston’s about allowing young Dustin to pilot a car for he
and his wife Sandy. Known for his relentless approach to research, Green
carefully considered which class of racing would provide the best training
ground for his new driver. The upright mini sprints seemed to leap to the
forefront. The car’s similarity to a sprint car, competitive fields and
local schedules that featured premier facilities like Lawrenceburg Speedway
and Twin Cities Raceway Park
were all factors that weighed heavily in his decision.
Hueston driving Ron Green's mini sprint
At the beginning of 2006 the new team of
Hueston and Green purchased a used 1000cc mini sprint and set their sites on
joining the American Mini Sprint Association. Although Dustin admits that
the cars were much quicker and a little harder to handle than the quarter
midgets he was accustomed to, he proved to be a quick study. After being
forced to transfer through a B-Main for the first time, Hueston made his
mind up that it would never happen again. Since that time he has never
failed to transfer into the feature through his heat race. Hueston’s first win came
during an indoor series in DuQuion, Illinois. As is so often the case the
first win is the hardest to come by. His second win came during a season of
consistent top finishes in 2007 which nearly earned him the AMSA points
Hueston pictured with car owner Ron Green-left, and father Ron Hueston on
right after a victory at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Today Hueston is hard at work attempting to
earn his first mini sprint points championship. While he has his sights
firmly set on making the move up to sprint cars, he is also thankful to be
where he is and fully aware that his next step will require the same type of
good fortune that allowed him to climb out of a quarter midget into a mini
sprint. Unless a ride comes along in a midget or sprint, Hueston’s plans
include a return to mini sprint racing in 2009.