Brandon Grosso didn’t race like a rookie in his debut in the 358 Modified division on Saturday at New Egypt Speedway. Despite no pre-event practice in the Nitro Fish No. 32, the 16-year-old driver finished an impressive sixth.
“It’s a lot different,” said Grosso afterwards. “We had a good car tonight but I had to adjust to it. I’m happy, we finished sixth behind some really good drivers.”
Grosso grew up at the track watching opening night race winner Billy Pauch Jr. and defending track champion Ryan Godown from the grandstands.
“I’ve been watching them the last few years and I tried some of the things they do and it really worked out,” said Grosso.
“I asked Ryan a few things before the races tonight and he’s helped me out a lot.”
On Saturday, he was not intimidated while racing side-by-side against them for position.
“You can’t be scared of the car or who you’re racing with,” said Grosso. “It’s like anything else, you just have to be the best you can be.”
By the luck of the draw, Grosso started the feature right between the two hot shots. Pauch Jr. started seventh to his inside and Godown in the next row in eighth.
Early in the race it appeared Grosso might go forward with them, but another driver got into him. That pushed him out of the groove and he lost several spots.
“It’s fun racing with them at the start,” said Grosso. “I didn’t have much time up there with them because I got knocked out of the way on that one restart. I know those guys will race me clean so I’m looking forward to that in the future.”
While Grosso might be new to the Modified division, he said the power difference wasn’t that much different from his Open Sportsman car he had been driving at the track the last few years.
His dad and grandfather have also given him the best equipment and a solid crew led by Sam Wescott and Mark Blackwell.
“I have so many great people behind me, it really showed tonight,” said Grosso.”
“It was a good night for us. A good night of learning. It’s hard because many of them (drivers) are very aggressive, some too much.”
Grosso made his New Egypt debut in 2015, finishing that season third in the Sportsman points with three wins and fifth in the Crate division with four wins.
He improved last year to win the Crate title with two victories and finished second again in the Open Sportsman ranks with four wins.
Winning a Modified race this year is a real possibility, but finishing in the top-five in points at New Egypt isn’t realistic. Expanding his driving career this year, Grosso will miss several New Egypt race nights when he’s off running on the CARS asphalt Late Model series or in ARCA Stock Car competition.
After such a great effort on Saturday, he’ll be missing in action locally this weekend. Instead of being at New Egypt, he’ll be running on the CARS tour in Rougemont, N.C.
Since New Egypt handicaps the race line-ups with a penalty for missing races, he’ll also be starting in the back of the heats and features with the likes of Pauch and Godown.
“It’s going to be hard for us here because of the handicapping,” said Grosso. “We’ll be starting in the back all the time until we race three straight weeks and that won’t be often.”
When he is at New Egypt however, you can expect he’ll be poised more than his years and as fast as most of the veterans.
“I came here tonight knowing this was going to be a learning experience,” said Grosso. “I was hoping for a top-ten, so finishing sixth in my first race in this division is really good.”