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It has been a little more than 11 months since Andrew Grady last competed in a Late Model race.  On Saturday night, Grady will be returning to Southern National Motorsports Park as confident as ever.

Grady, 22, from Knightdale, North Carolina has not competed since the championship race at Southern National on September 13, 2015.  Grady had entered that race tied for the championship points lead with eventual champion Jonathan Findley but a mechanical failures led to heartbreak.

It was the second straight year Grady probably should have won the championship.  In 2014, he won five races in what was the Limited Late Model division at Southern National, but a disqualification derailed his championship efforts, resulting in Haley Moody winning the championship.  In 2015, he was the winningest driver among the track regulars but again came up short.

“The motor just let go on me,” Grady recalled.  “I’d be a two-time and defending champion at this point if not for circumstances.  That’s depressing.”

Since then, Grady has been out of the car and watching from the stands or helping other drivers.  Grady said he took the time off so his back could heal.  He was still feeling lingering pains from a back fracture in a hard crash at Southern National Motorsports Park in 2014.

“It’s been aggravating but it gave me time for my back to heal from where I fractured a vertebrate, focus on school and work and all that good stuff,” Grady explained.  “When I hit the wall in 2014 at SNMP, my back fractured again.  I kept racing.  That is what kept me out of the car.  After every race last year, I was hurting really bad.”

Grady made the decision to step aside, knowing that one more bad accident could end his career – or worse.

“I was at the point of my career where we were talking about Super Late Models and things were in the works,” Grady said.  “I said, ‘let’s take some time off because, if I have a bad wreck, it could end my career’.”

Saturday will make Grady’s return to the 4/10-mile speedplant in Lucama, North Carolina.

“I’ve been to every race at Southern National this year,” Grady commented.  “There are some really strong cars.  I’ve done my homework- on these boys so we’ll see.”

Grady, never lacking in confidence, feels optimistic that he can win both 40 lap races on Saturday night.  If his track record at Southern National is any indication, he may do just that.

“I think we have a legitimate chance at it, I really do.  As much experience as Dennis and Mike have there, they know the track and what it will do.  I think we have a shot at both of them, I really do.”

With South Boston Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway and Dominion Raceway all off this weekend, Southern National could play host to the continued chase for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship.  Contenders such as Matt Bowling could invade the track, increasing the competition level.

Grady welcomes the competition.

“You know me, bring them on.  Bring anybody and everybody.  The stiffer the competition, the better the racing is, the better show we put on for the fans.  I do wish the races were longer though.  I want to do a long race.”

After this weekend’s race, Grady hopes to compete some at Motor Mile Speedway.  He may also race at Wake County Speedway, a track he has won at multiple times.  He also said Carteret County Speedway and East Carolina Motor Speedway have captured his attention.

Grady also hopes to compete in Late Model Stock Car racing’s crowned jewel event, the Valley Star Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, on October 16th.

Marquis comes from St. Charles, Maryland and has a widespread background in journalism, having covered politics in Washington and Maryland as well as nearly every form of auto racing, including NASCAR, IndyCar, AMA Motocross and IHRA Drag Racing. Now living near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, Marquis covers Late Model Stock Cars and Super Late Models in the Carolinas and Virginia.

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