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{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;Races at Volusia Speedway Park &amp;mdash; which are usually held on Saturdays &amp;mdash; typically draw between 1,000 and 2,000 fans, and involve 100 drivers or more.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;During Speedweeks in February, which draw auto-racing fans from around the world to Volusia County, all 7,000 seats at Volusia Speedway Park will be filled, track promoter Tom Whipple said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The track is billed as the &amp;ldquo;world&amp;rsquo;s fastest half-mile dirt track.&amp;rdquo; Racers spin around the oval at speeds of more than 100 mph, and the turns come fast and frequent, in contrast to racing on longer tracks, like the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;That makes dirt-track racing more exciting for fans, Whipple said. Although the two types of auto racing have overlapping fan bases, Whipple definitely prefers the dirt track to NASCAR.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;We call it Napcar,&amp;rdquo; he said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Dirt-track racing also has a lower price point for beginners, who can build a starter car for about the same price as buying a speedboat. The affordable cost allows entire families to get involved, Whipple said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;It&amp;rsquo;s very much a family sport. You&amp;rsquo;ve got more fathers and sons or daughters out here together than, probably, any other sport,&amp;rdquo; he said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The track caters to the wide age range, offering free admission for youngsters age 12 and under, who are also allowed into the pit for an up-close look at the action.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;We very much promote the family atmosphere,&amp;rdquo; Whipple said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Mom, Dad and two children can attend a race for less than they would spend going to a movie, he noted, with an additional benefit: &amp;ldquo;You&amp;rsquo;re out here in the fresh air, interacting with other people.&amp;rdquo;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Whipple said virtual racing on computerized gaming devices, for a time, dampened the interest of young people in auto racing, but it&amp;rsquo;s coming back, according to him, because youths realized what they were missing.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;They come out here and start up a V-8 motor and feel the rumble and hear the noise &amp;mdash; nothing compares to that,&amp;rdquo; Whipple said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;He added, &amp;ldquo;Dirt-track racing is the only form of racing, really, in the country, that&amp;rsquo;s on the rise right now.&amp;rdquo;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Volusia Speedway Park is in its 51st year of operation, and it&amp;rsquo;s well-known by race fans far and wide.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;There&amp;rsquo;s hardly anyone who knows racing, in the country, who doesn&amp;rsquo;t know Volusia Speedway,&amp;rdquo; Whipple said.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p style=&quot;text-align: right;&quot;&gt;&lt;em&gt;&amp;mdash; Barb Shepherd&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/p&gt;” id=”9cb9e84c-4273-44fe-ac92-67eaced5ea1a” style-type=”refer” title=”Dirt-track racing is a big deal” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

The dirt-track-racing community will gather for a big night in Barberville Saturday, Sept. 28, in memory of one of their own: veteran racer and two-time track champion Dennis North, who died suddenly in 2011, leaving behind his wife, Julie, and their 5-year-old son, Cole.

“We call it Cole’s Night to Remember,” Volusia Speedway Park operator Tom Whipple said.

The Action Graphix Dennis North Memorial is a popular stock-car race that draws drivers from across the Southeast to the half-mile dirt track. It makes for a memorable evening.

And, Cole, now 13, has the chance to bask in the memory of his father and in the continuing love and support of his father’s friends.

“The community has adopted Cole, and has done a lot for him,” Whipple said, adding, “We really come together as a community.”

You’re invited to be part of it. Gates open at 4 p.m. at Volusia Speedway Park, and racing begins at 7:30. General admission costs $15.

Julie North said those who attend are urged to wear red, the signature color of her late husband’s Low Buck Racing team.

“We want to see a sea of red in the grandstand,” Julie North said.

Dennis North died of a heart attack while he was attending a racing event in Daytona Beach, his friend Bobby Peterson said. He was 36.

Now Peterson is one of a few dozen people who organize the annual race in his memory. This is the eighth year.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;They&amp;rsquo;re taking him under their wing. He loves it, and they love him, thank goodness.&amp;rdquo;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&lt;em&gt;&amp;mdash; Julie North, widow of Dennis North and mother of Cole North, on how the racing community embraces her and Dennis&amp;rsquo; son, Cole&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/p&gt;” id=”198e55b8-e999-4468-a5af-f25193642f70″ style-type=”quote” title=”Quote” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

“Me and Dennis were really good friends. … We went to the races together and drank beer together,” Peterson said. “It was sad that he left us so early, but it’s so great that we have his son that’s just like him. He’s the spitting image of his dad.”

The racing community built Cole a car that’s a replica of the No. 88 car his dad raced. Cole and that car, on a trailer, will ride in the Taylor Middle-High School Homecoming Parade Saturday morning in Pierson, before the race.

When the drivers presented the car to Cole at a previous Dennis North Memorial, Julie North said, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;Volusia Speedway Park is at 1500 E. State Road 40. The track is officially in DeLeon Springs, but near Barberville. (The facility used to be called Barberville Speedway.)&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;For the Action Graphix Dennis North Memorial race Saturday, Sept. 28, the gates open at 4 p.m. and racing begins at 7:30 p.m.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;General admission costs $15 for adults, $10 for youths ages 13-17, and is free for children age 12 and younger. Admission to the pit costs $30 for adults, $15 for youngsters ages 6-14, and is free for children age 5 and younger. There are discounts for senior citizens, military members and first responders.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Full meals as well as snacks are available at the concession stand, and beverages, including beer, are also sold.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Grandstand seating is available for up to 7,000 fans.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;For more information, call 386-985-4402.&lt;/p&gt;” id=”429bb2b8-aed0-4208-aacc-0ef265003916″ style-type=”info” title=”Want to go?” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Cole looks forward to racing the car someday at Volusia Speedway Park. He can drive it, he said, but not officially.

“I can drive it; they’re not letting me race it yet. They want me to get a little bit of practice in.”

The drivers who were his dad’s friends now allow Cole to assist in the pits and around the track.

“They’re taking him under their wing,” Julie North said. “He loves it, and they love him, thank goodness.”

Dennis North was born in Pierson and lived in the rural Northwest Volusia community all his life.

His parents, Janie North, and Ellis and Jackie North, still live in Pierson, as does Dennis’ brother Greg North. Cole’s maternal grandparents, Marybel and Tim Dennis, live in DeLand.

Julie North’s boyfriend, Robert Anderson, is part of the family now, too, teaching Cole to drive a stick shift, she said, and taking him hunting, which he used to enjoy with his dad.

“He’s been like a huge help,” Julie North said.

Julie and Cole North have a special feature planned during Saturday night’s race.

In years past, Cole and Donald McCormick of DeLand, a former racer and car owner, have staged a bicycle race during intermission at the Dennis North Memorial.

This year, Cole and his mom will be giving bicycles away as prizes to children in attendance. The race-car drivers have provided a dozen or so new bikes, Julie North said.

“It’s just a way of us saying thank you,” Julie North said.

Cole, too, appreciates all the racing community has done for him.

“It’s awesome that they’re doing this,” he said. “It really shows how much they care.”


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