With two feature victories and six top-five finishes under his belt so far in the 2016 season, Paul Grosnickle has proven that his #28 Pro-Truck is one to contend with at Crystal Motor Speedway.
The Lansing, Michigan native who is more often referred to as “Smokey” started his racing career while most kids where racing hot wheels; his dad Brian acted as crew chief on several local championship teams in the 70’s and 80’s including Ken and Keith Love and Rick Stout so racing was always part of the Grosnickle family summer schedule. Although the rumble of race engines was never too far away, when Paul was just 9 that sound got a lot closer to home, as Grosnickle recalled with a gin, “We saw an ad on News Center 6 on 4th of July weekend for ¼ midgets at Capital Quarter Midget in Lansing and my mom [Karen] said to my dad ‘Let’s go watch them!’. That was in 1993 and in 1994 I had my first car and have been doing it ever since.”
Six years after first strapping in Grosnickle reached the pinnacle of Quarter Midget success when he captured the 2000 QMA Tri-City Championship, Regional Championship, National Championship and two track championships.
After a stellar 2000 season and turning 16, Paul was more than ready to take on full time competition and although his early career was spent on asphalt, he was drawn to his dirt track roots and the Grosnickle team decided that Crystal Motor Speedway where so many Saturday nights were spent was the perfect venue for the young driver to test his skills against the veterans he had grown up watching, “We bought a Buzzard car and started out in the Modified division! Exclaimed Paul before adding, “We ran Modifieds for 6-years and then I decided that I had been doing the same thing for too long and I really wanted a change and to do something different”.
That something different turned out to be Crystal Motor Speedway’s Pro-Truck division. Although the class wasn’t one of Crystal’s largest, it offered Paul the opportunity to follow through a childhood dream, as he explained, “Back in the early 90’s when the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks came out I thought they were the coolest thing and always wanted to race them. I was actually interviewed for Racing for Kids Magazine in the 90’s and that is what I said I wanted to do. So when I decided I wanted a change; the trucks looked like fun and I wanted to help promote the class. It’s now come full circle, it’s not NASCAR but it’s the NASCAR of Crystal” grinned Grosnickle.
For Paul the trucks have been a great fit for the past three seasons, the camaraderie and the competition keep the class challenging but also grounded, as Paul commented, “I’ve had a lot of good runs in the truck, we are all friends. I remember one night last year I was racing with the #92 of Curtis Rice and we were both running with bad handling cars and racing for 6th or 7th and we were just beating the crap out of each other but having a good time. We can race each other hard and yet he’s the first one to come over to help me with the car when something goes wrong, and I am the first one over to his pit to congratulate him on a win”.
Although Grosnickle has had fun in the trucks, he is already looking to new horizons, “I think this may be the last year in the trucks. It might be time for a different class and different competition. The Mods have been done already so I am not sure where we will land. Maybe Late Models or Pro-Stock. I’d like a Sprint car but somebody [pointing to girlfriend Amanda] won’t let that happen!” laughed Paul.
One thing is certain, a #28 will be seen making laps at Crystal Motor Speedway in 2017; Grosnickle may have learned on the asphalt as a kid, but there is no pulling him away from the dirt now, as Paul explained; “I think Dirt is primarily harder. Running asphalt for so many years you get in a rhythm of knowing that if you qualify well you will finish good. On dirt you are always racing the track at the same time that you are 3-wide and sideways trying to pass people. You are racing with the setup that you based on predictions you made five races before and you hope you hit it better than the other 20 guys out there”.
Grosnickle may be tossing around the idea of stepping away from the trucks in the upcoming season, but there is no doubt that the division will always hold a special place in his heart, especially his first truck feature victory as Paul recalled with a smile, “The first feature win in the truck was a big deal. We had come so close so many times. We had been leading and had something break and then had late race cautions and lost the tires. To have really put a couple of good runs together, lead, and finish up front was what we needed to do and so that really stands out!”
Crystal’s regular racing program boasts of six divisions, giving ample opportunities for Paul to pick what is next for the #28 team, and as a former child racer he is quite happy about Crystal’s part-time seventh division of Mini Wedge Cars new in 2017, “I am very excited to see Crystal pick up the Mini-Wedges. I think it’s a great opportunity to let the younger generation learn and they can do it in a safer manner than say Go-Karts that don’t have a roll cage. It’s a stock class with a stock motor which lets the driver prevail and that is the only way that kids are going to learn”.
Working in General Motors Design Projection Engineering group at the Lansing GM plant, means that between work at the #28 Paul doesn’t get a lot of free time, so when he does get some down time Paul enjoys soaking it up with his girlfriend Amanda and her five kids Ali, Zoyei, Zack, Zhander, Mady & Haley. As Paul said with a chuckle, “I do also enjoy a good nap or watching Netflix on the couch as I am a reality T.V. junkie.”
With Paul’s ever-ready smile and even temper, he is definite fan favorite at CMS. His humility and good nature make him the perfect role model for the next generation of racers, and the weight of that is not one that Paul takes lightly. For Grosnickle, being able to race is a privilege and one that comes from the hard work, support, and dedication of the people who surround him, “It takes a lot of people to help out. Without the sponsors, my crew, or the fans I wouldn’t be able to do any of this” Proclaimed Grosnickle.
It is through the financial support of The Wildlife Gallery, UAW, Krytek, Racers Speedshop, LV Level, Colors of Heroes (Gustafson Foundation), and Edgewraps.com and the countless hours of hard work of Brain, Karen, Joe, Mark, Char, Dan, Jodi, Cordell, Jordan Susie and Amanda that Paul is able to keep the #28 truck on track and running strong and he is ever appreciative of all of their help and support.