Grissom Hopes to Back Up Blizzard Win, Blaze Own Path Toward Fulfilling NASCAR Ambitions

By Chuck Corder

Kyle Grissom shoots straight.

There was a time when the 25 year old thought ascending the ranks to NASCAR was a mere formality.

The assumption is understandable once privy to the pit-row rearing Grissom enjoyed as a kid. The son of 1993 Xfinity Series champion Steve Grissom, Kyle spent most of his childhood watching his father compete on the biggest stages at the biggest tracks the sport had to offer.

“It was the only thing I knew,” Kyle Grissom said. “I always just assumed I’d be in NASCAR one day. That’s the way I thought it would go. There was no other way about it.”

Of course, there was another way.

While he awaits ever-so patiently on a call from NASCAR, Grissom is finally earning short-track stripes against the country’s top late model drivers.

Grissom won the Mt. Dew Kickstart 100, the Deep South Crane Rentals Blizzard Series opener at Five Flags Speedway last month, for his first-career trip to Victory Lane at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.

He returns in the Harrison’s Public Safety No. 31 Friday night, eyeing a repeat performance.

The Rubber & Specialties 100 is the second of four Super Late Model races to be held this season in Pensacola and the fifth race for the Southern Super Series.

“It would be huge to come back down there and back up what we did (in April),” said Grissom, who sits sixth in the Southern Super Series points standings, 116 shy of leader Casey Smith. “If we can’t get a win, we definitely want to be running up front and be competitive.”

Pro Trucks, Sportsmen and Bombers will also be competitive on what promises to be an illuminating Friday night at Five Flags.

The gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. Qualifying for the SLMs begins at 7 p.m. with pre-race festivities penciled in for 8 p.m.

Once the Pro Trucks wrap up their 25-lap feature and the Blizzard Series cars come to the grid, fireworks will light up the night sky for Five Flags’ annual pyrotechnical display.

Admission is as follows: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; and free for kids under 6.

Kyle Grissom wasn’t around when his father was coming to Pensacola in the mid-1980s.

Steve Grissom won one feature race at Five Flags (1986) before going on to a storied career in the Xfinity Series, formerly the Nationwide Series. When Steve Grissom was racing for championships, though, it was known as the Busch Grand National Series.

The older Grissom, who won 11 times on the Busch circuit, also made 151 Sprint Cup Series starts in 10 seasons.

These days, Steve Grissom spends his time in standing “Spotterville,” serving as Kyle’s eyes above the track on race nights.

“It’s definitely a huge help having dad with all the experience he’s had,” said Kyle Grissom, who made his first UARA late model series start at 15 and also was a PASS South regular for a few seasons.

“Dad’s been there with me the whole time. I’ve definitely benefited from people he knows, and it helps out with resources. But I definitely wanna prove I can do it on my own.”

His first attempt at trying to prove it in Pensacola was inauspicious, to say the least.

The younger Grissom came to Pensacola’s high banks in 2012 and made a futile attempt at qualifying for the Derby.

Last December proved much better, as Grissom not only qualified, but cracked the top-10 in a Derby won by 17-year-old John Hunter Nemechek — son of Joe, another NASCAR star.

More seat time at Five Flags finally paid off in April. Grissom shocked many, Bubba Pollard most notably among them, with his victory.

After starting from the pole thanks to an invert, and leading 64 laps early, Grissom yielded the advantage to Pollard a little past the halfway point of the 100 lapper.

But on a late restart, Grissom reclaimed the lead from Pollard and withstood a bevy of green-white-checkereds to secure the victory.

“I didn’t wanna give it away at the end,” he said. “The Southern Super Series is definitely the top level as far as short-track racing goes. Those guys don’t miss. They’re good every race. When they do miss, they miss very little. You have to be on your game to crack the top-five.”

But Grissom never batted an eye that night en route to the win.

It’s just the kind of attitude you’d expect from a straight shooter, who remains steadfast in not allowing fate to detour him from his lofty dreams of one day competing in NASCAR.

“It’s gone differently than I thought it would,” Grissom admitted. “Things change. It’s tough to get moved up, but I’m still trying.”