Coty Hartson is classified as a rookie in the Bandolero Bandits division of the Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but that doesn't mean he is a stranger to racing.

The 12-year-old Clinton, Conn., native already has more than five years of racing experience including competition in dirt bikes, go-karts and quarter midgets.

"I just love to race anything," Hartson said. "I had fun racing bikes, quarter midgets and karts, and racing in the Summer Shootout Series is so much fun too. I'm also learning a lot and that's what's important right now."

Hartson began his career racing motocross at age 6, and it didn't take him long to learn that he had a knack for winning races. He won more than 25 events and at one point was the third ranked motocross racer in New England for his age group.

At the age of 9 Hartson's motocross career quickly came to an end.

While competing at Winchester (N.H) Speed Park, he landed a jump awkwardly and fell. The incident lacerated Hartson's spleen. Had his parents not rushed him to the hospital after he complained of pain, he would have likely died.

"I didn't think it was that bad at first," explained Hartson's father Gary. "I was telling him to get up and keep going, but soon I realized something was wrong. We took him to the hospital and the doctors took x-rays, they told us if we had waited even 20 more minutes, we might have lost him.

"He had a quite a few injuries even before that, broken bones and concussions, but after that one we decided it was probably best to move to something different."

Hartson then made the move to race quarter midgets and found success racing at Silver City Quarter Midget Club, the same track where young NASCAR star Joey Lagano began his career.

After gaining more experience and plenty of feature wins, Hartson and his parents began to think about the next step in the young racer's career.

It was around that time that Jason Shapiro, the car chief for Joey Lagano's Sprint Cup team and long-time friend of the Hartson family, suggested they move to Concord, N.C., so Hartson could compete in the Summer Shootout Series.

After taking Shapiro's advice, the Hartson family picked up and moved to the heart of NASCAR country. While waiting to get started in Bandolero competition, Hartson raced go-karts at Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte, where he added even more wins to his already impressive resume.

Hartson's first race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was during the Spring Fling in April, which produced a respectable fourth-place finish. Engine troubles hampered his efforts in the opening round of the Summer Shootout Series, but he recovered to win the Rookie Race on the Monday of round two and recorded a seventh-place finish in the feature the following week.

"Racing at Lowe's has been a lot of fun so far," Hartson said.

"It's a lot different than what I'm used to, but I've been working on it a lot. I'm getting better so maybe we'll have a shot at winning a race by the end of the Summer Shootout this year."

While Hartson is learning the ropes of the Summer Shootout Series and enjoying every minute of it, his parents continue to rest easy knowing that their son is safe.

"Bandolero cars are much safer than dirt bikes," explained Gary Hartson. "Plus we make sure he uses all the proper safety equipment, so we feel we don't have to worry too much about his safety anymore."

There will be fireworks on and off the track Tuesday night, June 30 when the 16th annual Summer Shootout Series celebrates Independence Day with Harrisburg Fireworks Night.

In addition to a full slate of Legends Car and Bandolero racing, a crazy CRASHCar Trailer Race of Destruction will be part of the action. The fireworks extravaganza will follow the racing program at approximately 9:45 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 7:30.

The 10-week Summer Shootout Series runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 11. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 on race nights. Parking is free. Admission is just $7 for adults. Children 6-12 are admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free.

Contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS for information or visit  us online