Hardee's Summer Shootout competitor George "Cotton" Spry of Salisbury, N.C., enjoys two hobbies-one of which moves at a considerably faster pace than the other.

Throughout the 10-week racing series that runs on Tuesday nights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Spry is a contender in the Verizon Wireless Legends Car Masters division which features drivers ages 40 and over. Now in his 10th season of Hardee's Summer Shootout competition, the 51-year-old Spry's resume includes Masters division championships in 2000 and 2002.

Away from the track, Spry's other hobby involves a much slower mode of transportation-mule riding.

"Mules are stronger, have more endurance and are more sure-footed than horses," Spry explained, noting that a mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. "They require less maintenance and are less excitable than horses. Mules also have more stamina and can carry more weight than a horse of equal size."

Racing his Legends Car on Charlotte Motor Speedway's quarter-mile oval, Spry travels one mile in approximately 1 minute and 12 seconds. It takes considerably longer to cover the same distance on a mule.

"It would take around 25 to 30 minutes to go one mile, maybe 15 to 20 at a much quicker pace but that is about as fast as it gets," said Spry, who was given the nickname "Cotton" as a teenager because his light blonde hair resembled cotton.

"Riding mules is very relaxing. I ride with my wife Donna. My mule is named Grady and her mule is named Bailey," he said. "The good thing about mules is that you can go riding in the hills, mountains or wherever you choose. A horse might get spooked, but a mule already knows the lay of the land. It is just instinctive with them; they know where to put their feet. We like to ride them in the early afternoon because it is so peaceful.

"The Legends Cars are good for taking out frustration from the day, while the mules are just a form of relaxation," added Spry.

Spry has been involved in racing for nearly 30 years and thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie that fills the Hardee's Summer Shootout garage area.

"I love racing here because it is so competitive and you meet a lot of wonderful people," he said. "You go out there, race hard and take out your frustrations from the day. If you bump into someone and bang up your cars, you go back to the garage area and help each other piece them back together; it is just that kind of atmosphere.

"You have to be able to bump around a little bit, that is just a part of racing," Spry continued. "But you also have to know who to bump and when to do it. If you bump the wrong person, they might spin around and take you out of the race as well.

"I just get out there and try to do the best I can. I would never intentionally wreck anyone. This is just a hobby, something I do for fun," concluded Spry, who works as a Site Manager at the BFI Landfill behind Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In addition to competing in the Legends Car Masters division, Spry says he keeps an eye on the younger racers.

"I like watching the kids, but the best thing we could do for them is to lock up their parents. Then we could sit and watch how quickly their racing skills improve," Spry said. "Too many of the parents take it way too seriously and people should just be out here to have a good time."

The Hardee's Summer Shootout runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The action-packed racing program features three divisions of Legends Cars, three classes of Bandoleros and the popular Thunder Roadsters.

Admission is just $5 for adults. Children 6 to 12 are admitted for $3 with kids under 6 free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Contact the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for information.

Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude by 10:15 p.m.