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Coasting into NASCAR

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Seventeen-year-old Cole Mizio slides into his car to do some hot laps after Saturday’s Bolivar speedway race is canceled.

Seventeen-year-old Bolivar racecar driver Cole Mizio has come a long way from the Taekwondo champion he was when he was just 11.

Taekwondo, Mizio explained, was a discipline that helped stabilize his focus. From the age of 8, he participated in adult classes and excelled in them, he said. One of his instructor’s even called Mizio his “Red Bull” because of how he energized classes with his enthusiasm.

Another way Taekwondo helped was with Mizio’s eating disorder, something caused by his “sensory integration and sensory-based food refusal,” which almost took his life when he was little, his mom, Melissa Mizio explained. 

She said he was diagnosed with special needs as a child but has come a long way since then, and she’s very proud.

When he got a service dog, she would lay across his stomach, which calmed his senses down. With her helping him to eat and Taekwondo helping his senses, “he sailed from there,” his mom said.

He was even a three-time gold medalist for the junior olympics, Mizio added.

Eventually, though, the high altitude and cost of living in Colorado became a factor that drew the family to Missouri. Mizio’s grandfather needed to be at the lower elevation found in Bolivar, but when they moved, they quickly realized they weren’t going to find the same type of Taekwondo training that helped him with the discipline he was used to. So, they explained, along with school moving to the home, so did Taekwondo training.

When the opportunity to start working at the Bolivar speedway came up, Mizio took it. He began by volunteering as a pit runner, which his mom described as just helping out the drivers, and that job paved the way for him to do a ridealong with Bolivar speedway driver Mark Bartley in the Baby Grand last year. 

After that, he then earned a ride with Louis Motorsports, owned by Brian Lewis.

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Cole Mizio holds up the No. 1 finger while smiling in front of his No. 3 car.

Mizio’s grandfather has helped out quite a bit with his success, Mizio explained, including leasing the car Mizio drives and paying for a trailer for the car. 

“‘You are going to make it to NASCAR,’” Mizio said his grandfather told him. “Before I die, you are going to make it to NASCAR.”

“That’s what keeps him alive,” Mizio’s mom said, ”is watching him race and watching him grow and watching the dream that he’s trying to pursue.” 

Mizio’s goal, he confirmed, is to make it to NASCAR, but he doesn’t know when that will happen. 

“It could happen next Saturday,” he explained. “You never know, or it could happen for someone else.”

His mom explained that’s why they are constantly sharing on Facebook, doing interviews, appearing with sponsors and signing autographs — whatever it takes to get Mizio’s name out there. 

She said he’s been a fan of racing ever since he could walk, and now he’s been racing for two years.

Mizio actually drove a race car before getting his driver’s license. 

“For me,” he explained, “it helped me understand driving on the streets because I have more car control,” something he said even his driving instructor was amazed at.

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 Cole Mizio’s car sits idle after the race is canceled, the names of Mizio’s sponsors resting on the side.

With his control, he claimed his first win at the Bolivar speedway last year, and he said he’s won 11 more races since then. He hasn’t won any this year, but a lot of that is due to driving a car with a different motor, one with much more power than the motorcycle motor he used to drive in the Baby Grand, he said. 

The car he drives now is 16 feet long, he said, also much larger than his previous car. For that reason, he said, he’s lost quite a few races, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.

“You win some, you lose some,” he said, shrugging. “That’s how racing is. You just try better next week. It doesn’t bother me much because I just enjoy driving my car.”

Mizio said his favorite part about racing is after the show when fans come down to the pits to see the cars and meet the drivers, something Mizio said he remembers doing when he was younger. 

He described how he used to meet every single driver and look at every single car, every weekend. From that experience, he garnered a collection of folders of autographs.

Even though his dream is to get to NASCAR, if that doesn’t work out, he would like to go to a college that helps with motorsports. No matter what, though, even if he gets into NASCAR, he plans to do school online.

The University of Ohio has a degree in motorsports, his mom mentioned, which is something he might be interested in.

His mom also said he does a lot of volunteer work, “and has since he was little,” she added. 

When he’s not at his job in the pits, he volunteers at his church with the Open Hands Ministries program, with disabled veterans and with the Christian Motorcycle Association which does car blessings before races. CMA is one of Mizio’s sponsors, so they have specifically gone to his car and prayed over it before.

“He’s very strong in his faith,” his mother explained, mentioning how he goes to two youth groups because he loves them both so much. The youth groups belong to both The Heights and First Christian Church. The latter church is where he volunteers for Open Hands Ministries, a nonprofit organization that offers free meals on Monday nights.

“Both of my race cars have ‘Racing for Jesus’ on them,” he described. “Without God, I don’t think I’d be in racing.”

“I think he kind of guided me in that direction,” he added, mentioning how the Bolivar speedway was closed when they moved, and it wasn’t until 2018 that it opened back up, and he was at their second race. 

Just a little while later, he landed a job in the pits, and the rest of his story is yet to be explored.

 

 

 

 

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