Colten Cottle entered his first event in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway late in the 2011 season and drove in his fourth early in 2012. He failed to advance to the feature in both events.
Sixteen events later, the 17-year-old from Kansas, Ill., returned to Jacksonville late last season and finished third. It was substantive evidence of his rapid improvement and the promise of his talent.
Cottle will build on the 24 POWRi National Midget events he’s run in the season-opening events at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway on Friday (April 26) and Macon ((lll.) Speedway on Saturday (April 27).
“Jacksonville is one of my favorite tracks,” Cottle said. “I like to run on top and gas it up. That first race I ran there was my first in a Midget and it was a big difference from where we used to go racing in mini-sprints. It’s a big jump in horsepower and lot different driving. It was a whole new ball game that I had to learn how to do.
“I think having a lot more experience helped me (finish third) at Jacksonville. It helped we had a pretty good heat race and started up front in the feature. We learned a lot through the year, running the top and doing the slide jobs and all that.”
Cottle made his first feature at Macon late in 2011 and finished 12th. He raced at the one-fifth mile track four times last season and made the feature in all four with best finishes of 11th and 12th.
“Macon has not really been one of our strongest tracks, but I enjoy it,” Cottle said. “It’s a lot of close racing. You’ve got to be on your game. There’s a lot of good drivers in POWRi and it takes a lot of experience to run up front.”
Cottle is a second-generation driver. Father Rick, his current crew chief, drove Modifieds. Uncle Shane Cottle of Kokomo, Ind., has had an outstanding career in Midgets and Sprints. He was the USAC Indiana Midget Week champion in 2005 and 2006 and won the prestigious Little 500 Sprint Car race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in 2008.
“Uncle Shane goes to the (POWRi) races when he’s not running and helps me quite a bit driving wise,” Cottle said. “He helps me understand what I’m doing wrong and how to correct it. My dad does all the setups on the car (Spike-Esslinger) and he’s a big help, too.”
Cottle was the mini-sprint champion at one-eighth mile Coles County Speedway in Mattoon, Ill., in 2009 and continued to race there through the 2011 season.
Cottle finished second in the feature at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway, like Jacksonville a quarter-mile, in his 10th POWRi Midget event last season and 13th overall. He finished 14th in the national championship and had two top-fives and six top-10s in 21 events. Cottle made the feature 18 times including in 17 of the last 18 events.
“I was pretty happy with it (season),” Cottle said. “It was our first year, just getting started. It was a pretty good year for us.”