“My dad raced dirt bikes growing up, but he was injured a lot,” says Grist. “He’s pretty much broken every bone you can break. He started racing karts about the time I was born, so I grew up at the karting track, watching my dad. He put me in a kart when I was six years old so I could try it, and I absolutely loved it. It started out just for fun, something I could do with my dad, and it was a good bonding thing for us. But I won a local club championship, then a couple of regional championships, then had some success in a Stars of Karting event in the U.S. Winning the Rotax Max Junior Canadian Nationals and Western Canadian Juniors earned me trips to Egypt and Italy to compete for Team Canada.
“This was very unexpected,” recalls Grist. “I think we figured I’d go into formula cars at some point so we could do some club races on the weekends, but when I started winning races and championships, I knew I wanted to be a race car driver.”
“It was me and a bunch of my karting friends from Ontario. James gave us all the opportunity to have our first day in a race car, which was massive. I owe a large part of this to him, for giving me my first shot. I hope I can win IndyCar races someday!”
As the young Grist became more serious about racing, Jeff Grist realized that it was time to look for assistance. He asked former Formula 1 and IndyCar racer Derek Daly to manage his son’s career.
“I had my first street races, my first ovals, so it was a great learning experience,” says Grist. “When I look back on it, there were some good aspects to moving up quickly, but there were some bad aspects. I could have battled for the [USF2000] championship my second year, but I really enjoyed working with Andretti, so we decided to move up into the Pro Mazda seat that Matthew Brabham was leaving after he won the title and moved into Indy Lights.
But Grist was ready for a change in 2015. He felt comfortable after testing with Juncos Racing, which had won the driver title with Pigot, and made the switch. After a difficult start to the season, Grist hit his stride at his home race in Toronto, winning race two from the pole position. He earned three more poles and two more race wins, storming to a third-place finish in the championship.
“We started on the front row at each of the last seven races, so hopefully that will be some good momentum going into 2016. We need to make the decision whether to stay in Pro Mazda another year or go into Indy Lights. After everything we went through this year, to end up where we did was amazing. So to come back next year, without all that stuff happening, we could be very good for the championship.”
“In North America, you can go from karts to USF2000 to Pro Mazda to Indy Lights, and hopefully into IndyCar. In Europe, you have so many decisions. Do you do 2.0 or F4? F3 or GP3? 3.5 or GP2? There are so many different options. Here, it’s one straight shot.”
“SickKids is one of the best hospitals in North America. What they’re able to do for young kids is amazing. We had the kids design helmets a few years ago – I wore them at the Toronto race and then we auctioned them off. It gave the kids a cool project and it was fun for me, racing with butterflies, ladybugs or flowers on my helmet! It’s great to visit them, but it’s hard, too. They’re in there battling for their lives and we’re out racing cars, living our dream. But if we can put a smile on their face or help them have a better day, it’s all worth it.”
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper Tire is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also been seen on the track as a sponsor of the IMSA Prototype Lites Series, and competing in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities in 11 countries around the world. This year, as we head into our second century in the tire industry, Cooper is looking toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper Tire, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire orwww.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.
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