On the surface, Grant Griesbach seems like the typical 10-year-old Wisconsin boy.
He's an older brother; plays football, basketball and baseball; and is preparing for a new school year with other fifth-graders at Horizon Elementary School in Pewaukee.
And he dreams of one day being in NASCAR, just like his favorite driver, Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth.
But unlike other boys his age, Grant’s actually behind the wheel of a racecar. And he’s not just driving it every Sunday at the Slinger Speedway. He’s driving it better than most of the other drivers at the track — teenagers and people in their 20s, 30s, 40s — many of them who have been driving longer than he’s been alive.
“Some people are really good about it,” Grant said about the other drivers. “But some people don’t like that I am beating them.”
Grant is in third place of 61 drivers in the season standings for the Slinger Bee's division. He’s made some fans along the way, but it wasn’t easy to get onto the track in the first place.
It took a lot of convincing the owner at the Slinger Speedway to let Grant race. The minimum age limit is 14, meaning Grant would have to wait four more years to race. But a special exception was made when he proved himself to the owner over Labor Day weekend last year. The owner had asked Grant’s dad, Jeremy Griesbach, why Jeremy thought Grant can drive a car.
“I said, ‘Well, he races go-karts as fast as the cars in the Slinger Bee’s go. He has more racing experience then most of the people out there in that class. I am not sure how good he’d be but I am pretty sure he can do it and at least stay out of the way,’” Jeremy said.
A mother’s perspective
Like any mother, Lori Griesbach is concerned about her son’s safety, especially when he’s out on the track.
After all, earlier this year, a 12-year-old Florida boy was killed following a crash at a speedway near Tampa Bay.
But Lori’s been watching Grant race since he was 5, and she’s not about to stop him.
“It gets nerve-wracking still as a parent, but he loves to drive and he enjoys it,” Lori said. “I know when he is out there, he is really having a good time and doing his best.”
A win for Father’s Day
When Grant started racing this year at the Slinger track, the family had an agenda in mind.
“Our goal this year was just to get in the car and get comfortable and to be competitive by the end of the year,” Jeremy said.
But Grant surprised them all, winning the Father’s Day race.
“I don’t think I have ever seen him as happy as he was and him as happy as he was,” said Lori, first pointing to Grant and then to Jeremy.
It wasn’t a fluke — Grant’s been racing well all summer, finishing third in the feature race on Aug. 5 and then second on Aug. 12.
“It kind of makes you re-evaluate your goals a little bit,” Jeremy said. “He is consistently running top three every week. If we can do that the whole year next year, that will hopefully put us in a spot to be more competitive for the championships.
“If you had told me he would be doing this good, this fast in a car, I would have told you I thought you were crazy.”
The family’s had help along the way as Grant’s popularity at the track’s grown over the past few months.
“Some of them were really hesitant at the beginning but once he showed them he could stay his line and then as he got faster, they have all been great,” Jeremy said. “There have been a few drivers coming up after every race talking to him, giving him suggestions.
“Ninety-nine percent of the drivers have been very supportive and very great about it — they are very helpful. Some of the drivers have even helped us get our car faster from a tuning standpoint.”
Jeremy graduated from Hartford Union High School, just miles from the Slinger Speedway, and had a long-standing interest in racing. He never raced himself, but he piqued his son’s interest when they went to a go-kart track in Dousman when Grant was 5.
“Santa Claus got him his first go-kart that year,” Jeremy said. “So it is Santa Claus' fault.”
Grant’s been racing go-karts against other kids ever since. He’s made a name for himself at tracks throughout the country. He’s even won the following titles:
- Kid Kart Class Central States Challenge Series, 2009 – second place
- Yamaha Sportsmen Champion, Road America Kart Club, 2010
- Yamaha Rookie, Midwest Sprint Series, 2010 – second place
- Yamaha Rookie Champion, Midwest Sprint Series, 2011
- Yamaha Rookie World Karting Association Manufacturer’s Cup series, 2011 – fourth place.
Grant said his racing success hasn't helped earn extra popularity points at school.
“Most of them don’t really care,” said Grant about his classmates. “Only a few are really interested.”
But that’s because the young students don’t really understand, Jeremy clarified.
As Grant keeps racing, the family hopes to move him out of the Slinger Bee’s and into a higher class at the Slinger Speedway. They’d also like to see Grant make rounds at other tracks, although that’s been difficult given his young age. Insurance companies view a 10-year-old racecar driver as a liability.
“We are trying to get other tracks to let us, but we haven’t had any luck so far,” Jeremy said.
Grant said he’d love to be in NASCAR eventually, like Kenseth. He admires Kenseth’s racing abilities, especially this year.
“This year he has been consistent,” Grant said. “He doesn’t get as much wins as the other ones, but he is always up front.”
Grant’s sponsored by the following Wisconsin businesses:
- Cobblestone Hotels, Neenah
- AC&R Enterprises, Elkhorn
- Broadway Auto Sales, Hartford
- Jim’s Place, Slinger
- Owl Graphics, Sun Prairie
- Franklin Motorsports, New Berlin
- Martinizing Dry Cleaning, Waukesha
- Behling Racing, Butler