Cole Czarneski ripping up the track
Denmark teenager is doing well dirt racing around the country
By Greg Bates
Cole Czarneski grew up on the track.
Tagging along with his dad, Tim, the Denmark youngster got to intimately know dirt track racing. However, it wasn’t until three years ago that Cole got into a car himself and started racing.
During that short time, Cole has made a name for himself on the racing circuit. The 18-year-old has been competing in IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) Stock Cars and Modified series as well as the UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) Modified series.
Cole — who graduated from Denmark High School in 2023 — isn’t just competing in events, he’s excelling. He won an IMCA Stock Cars race in Arizona at the start of January and most recently took the checkered flag for a feature race in UMP Modified in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 30. That was just Cole’s third career UMP race. Not bad for a teenager.
Seemingly a racing prodigy, Cole is having fun early in his career.
“Ever since I can remember, this is what I’ve wanted to do — when I was little, especially,” Cole said. “It kind of just came natural. Racing snowmobiles or whatever it was, I always felt like I was in control. I don’t know, it kind of just came natural.”
Tim has always watched his son succeed, so he isn’t really surprised that Cole is doing well on the track.
“He’s one of those kids, no matter what he did, he’s always really good at it,” Tim said. “If he did a remote control car, his hand-eye coordination was really good. And video games, he could pick up a game he had never played before and just do really good at it.”
Getting into racing
One week after Cole was born in 2005, Tim bought a race car and dubbed it “21CZ” — with CZ being Tim’s nickname.
With Tim racing all the time when Cole was young, the track — especially the 141 Speedway in Maribel — became a second home.
“He was at every race with us as a baby on up,” Tim said. “When he was I want to say just about to middle school, I hung it up for five years. I didn’t race, because the kids were into so many sports, and I thought that was more important. Then one day five years later, he comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, let’s go to the races tonight at 141.’ And I hadn’t been at a race for five years, because it was hard to go to them. So we went out there, and I ended up buying a car that night. I raced that car the rest of the year, then he started up the next season.”
Tim told Cole if he beat him in a modified race, he would give him his car number 21CZ. Cole took care of business and now proudly sports his dad’s number on all his cars.
Two years ago, Cole started racing IMCA Sport Mod and then jumped into IMCA Stock Car and ran both classes at the same time.
Last year, Tim bought Cole a pair of cars to race in IMCA events, like he did the previous year, and in UMP races.
Cole was slated to head to Florida last year to compete in some races, but he ended up qualifying for the WIAA state wrestling tournament and didn’t get down south.
Tim made a promise to Cole that if he followed through on competing in sports, after he graduated from high school he would have the opportunity to race.
“I said, ‘You’ve got until you’re 25 to make it or break it, and then you’re on your own,’” Tim said. “But he’s got a really good crew behind him.”
Hitting the circuit
Now that Cole is out of school, he’s concentrating on racing full time.
He has a number of local sponsors including DD’s Saloon, Northeastern Cattle Company, Northeastern Mudjacking, Professional Fabrication, Prestige Custom Cabinetry, Tri County Heating and Hermans Construction.
“This year he’s just going to chase all the money races, pretty much,” Tim said. “He’ll be in Texas, lots in Arizona, Iowa. Pretty much every class you can get, he’s got one of those cars in the shop. So, he’s just going to go wherever the money is.”
The first month of 2024 has been a whirlwind for Cole.
He left for Arizona on New Year’s Eve and by Jan. 2, he was on the race track. In just his third day, Cole won an IMCA Stock Cars race at the Cocopah Speedway in Somerton, Ariz. He competed in the Copper State nearly every day until Jan. 13.
Cole went home for a week before driving to Florida. He won a feature race in UMP Modified at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 30. The next day he placed third and the following day was a runner-up finish.
In the first 15 features (through Feb. 1) Cole raced in during 2024, he logged two wins, four top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes.
Cole had a good feeling entering the year that everything was starting to click and he could register some wins.
“Once I started it took me a little bit, because I’d never raced anything before,” Cole said. “Then kind of at the end of my first year, I started to figure it out a little bit, I feel like. I won some races my second year, then we decided we were going to go move up. We moved up two classes for last year, and kind of the same deal, you’re learning with the new mods and stuff.”
One reason Tim believes Cole is such a driver and competitor is his demeanor in the car.
“He’s very, very calm,” Tim said. “Sometimes if I had something happen on the track, I’d lose it a little bit, get mad. If something happens to him, he hits the brakes and drives under the guy and doesn’t even think nothing of it. He’s a very humble kid and he’s very calm. It gets that from his mom.”
Cole knows how important staying even-keeled is while competing.
“You’ve really got to keep your cool and focus out there,” Cole said. “I feel like you’ve got to keep your head on straight and focus on yourself.”
Being just 18, Cole is always the youngest racer on the track. Recently, a 20-year-old has been competing in the IMCA events. But Cole is routinely half the age of some of the racers he’s taking on.
“Ever since I started, it’s just been getting easier and easier for me,” Cole said. “I don’t even really look at it anymore as being the young gun; I’m just being another guy out there trying to compete and win.”
Cole — who is the only Wisconsin native competing in his events — is spending a couple weeks in Florida before heading back to Denmark for about 10 days. Then he will go back down to the Sunshine State to race in the IMCA series.
All of the events Cole competes in are streamed online on FloRacing. That allows Cole’s parents and relatives to watch his races.
“I’m super proud of him, and I can’t believe how fast he’s caught on,” Tim said.
What’s on the horizon?
Cole’s plans are to continue traveling to race in IMCA and UMP events.
The teenager is learning valuable lessons every time he hits the track. It’s all about getting better and being consistent.
Cole’s goal down the line is to compete in Super Late Model events. That’s the series the big-time professionals race in and that’s where the big prize money is shelled out.
“This year the plan was to run Super Late Model and UMP Modified cars down there, but they all run at the same time,” Tim said. “He’s going to try this summer the Super Late Model back home and try to go to some of those shows. That’s the goal. The UMP Modifieds and Super Late Models are the top of our racing.”
Said Cole: “There’s quite a bit to go to get to that Late Model stuff; they’re just at such a high level, I would say. I think we’ll get our feet wet a little bit with that stuff this summer, but that won’t be with those top guys yet with those top series. We’ll just be back home with the series they run there.”
With so many races in store for the rest of the season, Cole has his sights set on making his mark in the dirt racing world.
“I just want to win as many races as I can and learn as much as I can, too,” Cole said.