When Chase Dixon got his first win in a limited late model two years ago, he looked up at the stands and saw a host of young fans celebrating his win with him.
At just 16 years old, Dixon is still young himself, but he knows he’s a role model in his corner of the racing world at Kingsport Speedway, a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.375-mile semi-banked concrete oval track in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Since then, Dixon has used his success as a driver for good, running a “Stop Bullying” campaign with a logo on his car. He hopes that some of the kids who watch him from the stands will take his message to heart.
“Not every little kid looks up to a race car driver, but some kids that come down to the pits, if they want a hero car in the autograph session, they more than likely look up to you so whenever they see that on your car they want to be just like you,” he said.
Dixon, who lives in Abingdon, Virginia, got a bit of a taste of racing himself as a kid watching his sister drag race and hearing stories of his grandfather’s career behind the wheel, and it was always something he wanted to do himself.
It was a chance sighting while out for dinner one night that truly gave him the itch to drive.
“One day we were out in a restaurant eating and I saw a bandelero hanging from the ceiling and I told my dad, ‘I want to get into one of those,’ ” Dixon said. “And a year later he surprised me with one and we got into racing.”
Dixon’s dad, Chris, and grandfather, Greg Killen, have been the driving forces behind the young driver’s career. The trio learned the ins and outs of the sport together, and Dixon said they all grew closer in the process.
In his first season of driving the bandolero three years ago, Dixon won six races and finished runner-up in points. The next year he had the opportunity to run a limited late model, and again found success, winning three races and taking six poles, missing out on a track championship by one point.
“It was obviously a big ole step and I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” he said. “It was definitely a big stepping stone, but my progression, I was impressed myself. It definitely wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work and determination.”
Dixon spent a lot of time practicing on the simulator, and said that mixed with him being hands-on with the car has helped him a lot. He didn’t have any experience with working on cars before he began racing.
“Dad told me when I got the car, ‘If you’re going to race you’re going to have to work on it,’” he said. “And I was completely fine with that because to this day it’s what I want to do when I grow up. I want to work on race cars or I want to be a professional race car driver. It’s one of the two jobs that I want.”
The competition and the family atmosphere is what makes racing something Dixon wants to continue through his life.
“I feel like this sport is a family-driven sport and I love it that way,” Dixon said. “I love the competition and I love the feeling you get whenever you’re behind the wheel, and also the family is so involved with the short track roots racing… It gets the family closer and it’s just such an amazing deal I guess because you get to go to the racetrack with your family. Whenever we go to the racetrack I take my mom and my dad and my grandfather. My grandparents always come. And even my crew, they’re family to me.”
Dixon will run the “Stop Bullying” logo on his late model which he hopes to run for points at Kingsport this season, whenever that may be given current postponements due to the coronavirus. Kingsport has postponed all races until May 3.
The young driver will be a rookie in late models, driving it in just two races last season. He had a chance to test twice and practice a bit before the season was ultimately postponed.
Even though he wishes he was racing, Dixon is at least happy he got a chance to get behind the wheel a few times and see where the car stands whenever they are able to race again.
“We get to see how well we performed… Even in these bad times we get to work on it because we were pretty fast but still it gives us time to work on it and make it better,” he said. “I believe we’ve found some speed in the car and some errors we corrected.”
Dixon had plans to also run part-time this year at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, but the track canceled the 2020 season altogether. He still has hopes of getting his first taste of other tracks like Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina, and South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Virginia.
He’d also like to return to Martinsville Speedway for the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 500, one of two late model races he competed in in 2019.
“We came close to making the race last year,” Dixon said. “We got into accident in the heat race and was one spot short of getting into the race. But it was still a very good learning experience.
“I’m definitely competing against some of the best of the best in late model stock racing but with my team I feel like we can go to those tracks and have a good top five and maybe even compete for a win. Especially this year. I think we upped our equipment a lot and I think our program will be a whole lot better.”