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In the spotlight: Dakota Carlson

CS grad finds success in late model racing

By Judy Reed

What started out as family time has grown into a successful hobby for a Cedar Springs native.

Dakota Carlson, 22, son of Mark and Lynne Carlson, is becoming well known in short-track racing circles. “When I was 8 or 9, my dad worked a lot of hours and was looking for a way to spend more time with my brother Dillon and me,” explained Carlson. “So he wanted us to ride dirt bikes together. We did that some, but then got into race cars.”

The 2006 graduate of Cedar Springs High School is currently a student at Michigan State University and is pursuing an engineering degree. But come summer, he spends his time working on cars with his dad and brother and competing in Outlaw super late model racing events. Last year Carlson won the Firecracker 150 at Auto City Speedway in Flint, and the East vs. West Shootout 100 at Dixie Speedway. And out of 15 races, he often placed in the top five. “I only had two wins last year but they were big ones,” he noted.

Carlson has been racing competitively since he was 16 or 17 years old.  He has raced late models for his family-owned operation and worked for Benson Speed Equipment under Johnny Benson Sr. But this year he joined the Larry Zent/Dean Hudson racing team, who has been winning races for 25 years.

“They are a big name ride,” remarked Carlson. “I’m pretty excited about it.” He’ll mostly be racing on tracks on the east side of the state, but that’s fine with him. He did well there, and that’s where the team noticed him.

Carlson said that he’s always been a racing fan, and that he would continue to race as long as he’s good at it. He also gave a bit of advice for anyone thinking of joining the sport. “Start out small if your going to do it. It slowly got bigger and bigger for us. But we love it—it’s a way of life.”

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