#98 Late Model – Craig Graham:
After clinching the Late Model track championship at Canada's Toughest 1/3-Mile Oval just seven months earlier, Craig Graham entered the 2014 with a positive attitude and a new McColl Racing Enterprises chassis ready for action at the team's Orono, Ontario shops. The 42 year-old father of two – who works as Fixed Vehicle Operations Manager at Clarington Hyundai – was looking to add back-to-back titles to his already impressive racing resume.
"My father in-law Marten and the crew had spent a lot of time and effort during the off-season to get the new car ready and we were all very anxious for opening night," admitted Graham. "Anytime you start the season as the defending champion, you're under a bit of a microscope but this team has never gone to the track unprepared, so we were ready to show everyone that the 2013 title was no fluke."
After logging three feature wins last year, the pilot of the #98 Chevrolet went the entire season without a trip to the winner's circle and finished eighth in the final point standings. Not exactly the statistics he was looking for, but in all fairness, he only ran five of the 10 shows that had the Late Model division as part of the schedule.
"A hard hit midway through the year caused some damage to the front end of the car," admitted Graham. "Rather than rushing to get things back in order, the team decided to regroup and focus our efforts on Brandt's program for the balance of the season. Campaigning two cars almost every week was taking a lot of time and wearing everyone down."
Craig Graham hasn't locked-in his 2015 plans as yet, but expects to make selected starts at Peterborough Speedway and is looking at following at least part of the events on the new United Late Models of Ontario schedule.
#12 Mini Stock – Brandt Graham:
With the strong mentoring and coach from his father and the support and encouragement he's received from family, friends and fans, Brandt Graham's stock car racing stock continues to rise. From being a raw, inexperienced rookie, the 16 year-old has developed a solid set of skills and the ability to provide valuable set-up and handling information to the team that makes equipment more competitive with the top runners in the field.
After being named the division's Most Improved Driver and finishing fourth in the final standings for 2013, some might consider the Clarke High Schooler's eighth place in 2014 a setback, but in the grand scheme of things, he's right on pace for bright career. For young racers, a win doesn't always mean a trip to victory lane. For Brandt Graham, one of the highlights of his recently concluded season is the night he and Clarke High schoolmate Danny Benedict each picked-up qualifying event wins.
"The first time I ever fastened the chinstrap on a helmet, my parents told me that the goal of this sport was to have fun," admitted the young, second generation racer. "Moving through the ranks, I've usually run with a lot people around the same age. We've raced together and learned together, while moving up the different rungs of the motorsports ladder."
Brandt Graham has yet to decide on a long-term career path, but with just two more years of high school, the next step in his education is just around the corner. After three seasons at the controls of a Mini Stock at Kawartha and Peterborough Speedways, his 2015 racing plans will be announced early in the New Year.
Graham Racing would like to thank sponsors Full Circle Automation Inc., J&M Restoration and Collision, Autocare, Hot Rod Swag, Squirrel Head Music and Clarke Motorsports Communications for their support in 2014. Fans can follow the team on www.facebook.com/Graham-98-Racing.
Prepared by: Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications/First Draft Media