Tony Grady is returning to New River All-American Speedway once more on Saturday in pursuit of the $20,000 prize in the Solid Rock Carriers Battle of the Stars.
Grady, 59, from Youngsville, North Carolina, is one of the most successful drivers to ever compete at the 4/10-mile track nestled in the outskirts of Jacksonville, North Carolina. He has over 50 wins at the track and considers North Carolina’s latest addition to the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series family his favorite track.
“I like all eight turns,” Grady said jokingly, referring to the track’s unique configuration. “It’s more than a paperclip. You’ve really got to drive your way there and think about things like passing. At New River, a driver can somewhat attack the racetrack and be fast, not follow the leader. You’ve got to save some, but you can get real aggressive if needed, with the track, not just other cars. It’s wide enough that there’s room to race.”
While Grady does not use the term retirement, he is running fewer races and spending more time helping his son, Andrew, with his racing career. The younger Grady competes full-time in the CARS Tour and made national headlines last year for his involvement in a physical altercation after getting caught up in a wreck during a heat race when trying to make the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
The elder Grady is competing for the first time since November 2021, when he raced in the inaugural running of the same event at New River, recording an 18th place result which did not do his performance in the race justice.
“You know, I’ve retired three times,” Grady stated. “I won the Thanksgiving Classic (in 2014) and retired. I won one of the races at New River and retired. The last one, we were running good, I felt like we had a shot, Josh Berry won that race. I feel like we had something for him. So, one more time, then I may just step back and it’s all about Andrew and Mike Darne Racing.”
Grady hopes to be a contender once again in Saturday’s Solid Rock Carriers Battle of the Stars.
“The racer in me says we’re going to be up front,” Grady remarked. “I haven’t been in the car in a year. The last time we were in a car, we qualified third. The only thing, we’ve got a brand new car we’re taking. We did the same thing at the last Battle of the Stars. This one’s going to be a little different from what I’m used to because you’re going to have to think your way through it and save something with that tire. With my motor, if you’re not careful, you may burn the tires off of it.”
Grady is running the Harrington Enforcer motor, which is the most commonly used engine in the Late Model Stock Car ranks. Like other drivers running the higher horsepower engines, Grady believes the lower horsepower crate engines could have an advantage because they won’t burn up the tires as quickly. However, the format of the race could mix up strategy.
Teams can elect to take two tires at the end of either the first stage, at lap 75, or the end of the second stage, at lap 150. Most drivers are expected to take their tires at the end of the second stage, setting up a 50 lap shootout to the finish.
“We’ll roll the dice, see track position and what have you,” Grady commented. “The goal for me is the be in the hunt and have fun. I don’t have anything to prove, I’m just going out to have fun. That’s the main goal for the weekend, just an old guy having fun.”
Grady won’t be alone in that category either.
When he competes on Saturday, he will race against drivers he has numerous starts at New River competing against, such as former track champions Rusty Daniels and Brandon Clements.
“Rusty’s getting older too,” Grady explained. “He’s close to 50 or so. Him and Brandon, I know I can race with them, race hard, and keep the fenders on. The CARS Tour guys, you can race with those guys and not have to worry about getting torn up. The new guys, you have to feel them out and size them up to see if they’re comfortable, can handle the car and what not. Truth be told, they’re probably thinking that about me too.”
Following Saturday’s Solid Rock Carriers Battle of the Stars, the Grady family and Mike Darne Racing team will begin preparing for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour season which begins on March 11 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina. The series will compete at New River All-American Speedway on Saturday, September 9 – although Tony Grady said he expects Andrew, who has also had success at New River and likes the track, to compete at the track before then.