New columnist to drive into world of auto racing

By TANNER SHUTZE,
As a personal introduction I believe that explaining the beginning of how and why I am here right now typing this piece is very important. It started with NASCAR. It grew with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but it did not stop there. The interest compounded into the likes of IndyCar and Formula 1 to dirt track racing with sprint cars and late models.

As a personal introduction I believe that explaining the beginning of how and why I am here right now typing this piece is very important. It started with NASCAR. It grew with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but it did not stop there. The interest compounded into the likes of IndyCar and Formula 1 to dirt track racing with sprint cars and late models. 

My name is Tanner Shutze I am a longtime, passionate fan of auto racing.

I am 23 years old and was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I graduated from Oak Grove high school in 2014. I then attended college at Jones County Junior College and transferred to Mississippi State University to earn an undergraduate degree in business administration and graduate in 2018. Currently, I am a corporate trainer for Southern Tire Mart based out of Columbia, Mississippi. 

My father introduced me to the sport of NASCAR around the time I was four years old. He was obsessed. He tried to get me along with both of my brothers to develop interest in the sport, and though the other two steered clear (if you will), I drove directly into it. I was obsessed- immediately. I do not remember much at that age, but what I do remember is the feeling of excitement I experienced when I would see Jeff Gordon’s DuPont paint scheme with the streaking blue and red flames across the side of his race car. Most would remember him and associate him with his “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme. That was barely before my time. I was all about the flames. I bet my dad was thrilled with utter joy knowing that he created a Gordon fan considering his driver was yep- you guessed it- Dale Earnhardt. 

Enormous 1990’s spoiler alert coming; Earnhardt fans hated Gordon, and Gordon fans hated Earnhardt. 

I grew to love Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the legacy of Dale Earnhardt Sr. who tragically died in 2001 in what happened to be the first ever race that Jeff Gordon raced his flame-streaking paint scheme. The irony that surrounded that tragedy was truly remarkable, and I always have thought about my own parallel with that particular day. My dad’s love for the sport continuously faded over time as mine grew and became unwavering. 

You are probably reading this and thinking, “That’s great, but what does this have to do with PineBeltSPORTS?” 

With growth comes appreciation. 

With aging I have come to realize that I need to appreciate the local racing scene much more. My passion for multiple forms of auto racing has exponentially grown over the years, and I am now at a point where I love the idea of dedicating more time and interest to the local racing community. Local racing communities create opportunity and gateways for aspiring drivers and car builders, and they create passion and entertainment for fans. 

Hattiesburg so happens to have a racing community, and I will primarily be covering the details and events that revolve around the Hattiesburg Speedway. I may have a few NASCAR/IndyCar columns when major events take place, but my primary focus is to report the local scene for the Pine Belt. 

I am extremely excited and fortunate to be in this position in which I can report something I am so passionate about. I hope you all enjoy the content and I cannot wait to get started.

Tanner Shutze is a proud Hattiesburg native and a proud graduate of Oak Grove High School and Mississippi State.