A teenage racecar driver from Osceola is zipping toward his dream of becoming a NASCAR racer.
After success behind the wheel of a quarter midget car, 14-year-old Gavin Olson has graduated to a full-sized Midwest modified racecar.
Still too young to drive the roads, Olson has official racing licenses from NASCAR and WISSOTA and is competing against adults at the Cedar Lake Speedway.
His racing moniker? The Osceola Outlaw.
“I wanted to have something to represent my town,” he said of the name. “I’m also sort of quiet, so I thought the name sounded cool.”
Olson raced his final quarter midget competition last October. Over the winter, his family bought and worked on a Midwest modified (BMod) car.
As of May 21, the Outlaw had taken the car to three events — fewer than he’d hoped, due to a rainy spring. Still, he’d gleaned enough experience to make a few evaluations.
“It’s a LOT more car, a LOT more speed,” he said. “I have learned a Bert Transmission, which is a clutch but it’s different. … And I am racing against adults ages 20-50 years old and some have been racing for 20+ years.
“So a little intimidating, but I’m getting the hang of it quickly. My parents are having me start at the back of the field until I get the hang of it and I’m already reaching every goal I have and finishing ahead of several adults in my class!”
The local racing season runs from April through the beginning of October, but Olson hopes to extend his time on the track in the future.
“When I get really competitive, we will travel down south in the winter,” he said. “Hopefully I can make some impressions on the right people and get my name out there for some scouts in NASCAR.”
Like any big dream, the road to becoming a NASCAR racer has its challenges.
“I am finding out it is a very expensive and long journey,” Olson said, “but I won’t give up!”
He noted that he was learning a lot about mechanics, with help from his dad and three race mentors.
“It takes a lot of free time away from my teenage stuff, but I understand it takes a lot of hard work to get to the dream. … I don’t know many 14 year olds out there competing in an adult setting driving fast, in dust and dirt, sometimes you can’t see, getting pelted by rocks and mud, sometimes crashing, spinning out and breaking down, having to get towed off, but I love it. My mom and dad are my biggest supporters and I’m thankful they support me in my dream.”
Although he wishes the sport got more recognition from the general population — “I am driving a car that is minimally 2,600 pounds at over 75 mph sometimes sideways and I drive so hard that I’m exhausted!” — the Outlaw’s parents certainly aren’t his only fans. He’s taking home checks and spectators have started visiting him in the pit to ask for autographs.
“I already love my fan base,” Olson said of his admirers. “The kids are amazing and I am glad I can be someone they can look up to. I want to be an inspiration to others.”