Five races into the 2011 UARA-Stars season, Kyle Grissom had been a player for the victory in each and every one. But despite finishing no worse than sixth in the opening stint of the season, Grissom had yet to finish the race in Victory Lane and had taken a backseat in the standings to three-time winner Brennan Poole.
In Saturday night’s Banjo Matthews Memorial at Hickory Motor Speedway, however, Grissom left no doubt about the strength of his talent and race team, pulling away from Poole on the final restart to claim his first series victory in over a year.
Grissom’s weekend as a whole was flawless. He finished in the top-five in all three practice sessions and managed to post a solid, if not spectacular, seventh place qualifying effort despite going out in the baking heat of a North Carolina summer afternoon. Once the race started, Grissom never seemed to move off the bottom groove, using the low line to roll to the lead on lap 18 and then never being seriously challenged after that.
Grissom led the final 132 laps of the race in style, pulling away at times to more than a straightway lead.
“This was close to one of the best cars I’ve ever had,” said a smiling Grissom in Victory Lane. This thing was pretty hooked up. As soon as the green flag fell, we were on a rail from there. Once we were out front, we just tried to maintain our pace, save our tires, and we came home with the win.”
The win was even more special for Grissom as his grandfather Phil and father Steve both wound up making the trip to see the victory.
“It’s awesome that they were here. Dad’s won a Nationwide race here and I’ve won a UARA race here. It’s really special. Any time you win here, it means a lot.”
The most exciting battle turned out to be for the runner-up spot as the race wound down. Runaway series points leader Brennan Poole had slowly made his way up to second spot, but 14-year-old Jesse Little had run in the top-five all evening and was making a late race charge. The two battled side-by-side cleanly for the final three laps with Poole edging Little by just inches at the line. Little’s third-place finish was by far his best UARA series effort to date.
Australian George Miedecke was fourth with Andy Mercer, who won his first series pole earlier in the day, posting a nice fifth place finish. Matt Piercy, making his first series start, was sixth.
One notable finisher outside the top-ten was defending series champion Coleman Pressley in 16th. Pressley, in a one-off deal, was racing the #1 Don Satterfield Racing Chevrolet, a car that has not had much success over the last year and a half. Still, he seemed destined, with the help of K&N Pro Series East teammate Matt DiBenedetto and an outside pole qualifying position, to be a factor for the victory. But after leading the first few laps, Pressley faded and was never a factor.
Still, it was hard for anyone to be a factor Saturday night with Kyle Grissom in the field.
In Grissom’s own words, “We had them covered, tonight. That was a pretty good butt-whooping!”