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February 10, 2012

New season, new challenge for Cottle

Open-wheel ace is jumping into a Late Model this year.

Those who have spent any amount of time with Kokomo open-wheel standout Shane Cottle are quick to notice his easy-going demeanor and sense of humor on race nights. His outgoing personality has endeared him to fans and fellow drivers alike.

However, the quick smile and joke that were customary seemed to becoming fewer. He still was cutting up along with all of those around him, but he just didn’t seem to be having as much fun as he used to.

The reason being was simple. He wasn’t.

I recall a conversation late in the 2011 season away from the track when he commented that the season couldn’t get over soon enough. That statement stunned me. Here was a guy that a few years earlier would have raced seven days a week, 52 weeks a year if given the opportunity and now he was saying he wanted to see the season end.

“I just want to have fun again,” he said earlier this week as he prepped to head south to Florida to kick off the annual Speed Weeks leading up to the Daytona 500. “To tell the truth, I haven’t been having too much fun for the last couple of years. That’s part of the reason I’m going to do what I’m doing this year.”

Just exactly what he is going to do is primarily pilot a Late Model owned by T.J. Rayburn.

“I’ll know more when I get back from Florida,” he stated. “But right now the plan is to run the Late Model as much as I can at tracks like Eldora, Florence [Ky,], Hartford [Mich.] and Brownstown. Then I think we are going to try to run the U.M.P. Late Model Summer Nationals, too.”

With Indiana being primarily a sprint-car-dominated state, Cottle knows he will be putting in quite a few miles just to get the opportunity to make the transition from the 1,200-pound sprint cars to the bigger, heavier Late Models.

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