Grayson Cullather became the youngest race car driver in Southside Speedway’s 57-year history to capture the title Rookie of the Year in the Late Model Division at the .333-mile asphalt oval short track. Hometown boy Denny Hamlin could be sharing the spotlight on the racetrack in the near future with this hometown boy and Matoaca High School sophomore. Hamlin raced to victory Saturday winning the final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season with a win in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Cullather, a rising star on the track at the age of 15, raced against men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s and earned 270 points. He came in fifth in points for the season out of 27 drivers, with average speeds of 90 miles per hour for 40 laps at Southside during the 12-race season, Cullather stepped up the pace Thursday, kicking off the NASCAR weekend with speeds averaging 140 miles per hour at the Dominion Raceway track in Thornburg, Va., for its Late Model Division I race, part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. He was running sixth in the race last week when a wreck happened in front of him and finished in the top 10.
Two years ago, Grayson’s mom and dad, Matt and Erin Cullather, never watched the sport. Grayson started watching NASCAR racing when he was eight years old with his great-grandfather, Bill Croxton, who owned a race car in his early days.
The young Cullather saw racing as exciting and wanted to get out on the oval. “We are no racing family. We are a basketball/football family,” said Matt Cullather. “But we believed in him, that is why we took the leap. A lot of folks in the sport said he is too young, but we knew he was ready.”
“I had lunch with Greg Fernadez, he raced at Southside, to figure out our options. He was the leader of putting the whole thing together,” he said. “He retired from racing this year, placing third in points for the season. Greg is a great guy. We could not have done it without him. He always put Grayson first.”
Cullather showed promise and talent on the oval, and his dad tagged him G-Man and G-Man Racing was formed. His first year was in the U-Car division, where he raced his Chevy Cavalier at the age of 14. This season, G-Man, number 22 on the track, drove a Chevy SS in the Late Model Division. His pit crew included Richard Davis, crew chief; Justin Martz, Ken Biggs, Chris “Pork Chop” Farmer, pit crew; and Greg Fernadez, teammate and crew member. Greg Holt, owner of Finer Homes, owns the car.
G-Man explained the differences between the divisions in which he drove a last year and this year. “The U-Car is a street car and the Late Model Division is full-size and equipped, NASCAR ready vehicles. A huge difference,” said G-Man.
“Grayson is doing phenomenon,” said Fernadez. “Way better than I ever would thought he would do at this point. He has raw talent, a great head on his shoulders, and he is going places. It is amazing how well he is doing, and he is the most humble kid I have ever met.”
Racing at Southside Speedway has become a family affair, and now the whole family loves the excitement. His mom was very nervous at last Thursday’s race at the Dominion NASCAR-sanctioned track with much higher speeds than those at Southside.
“Once he is comfortable, I am comfortable,” she said. “I want him to be happy with the result.”
Sponsors are an important part of the team. They include Imperial Auto, Hometown Realty, Clearwater Pools & Spas, Hendrick Chevrolet, 84 Lumber, Croxton Inc., IMS, and HD Bros. Hendrick Chevrolet committed to sponsor the 2017 season immediately after this one.
Asking G-Man what he like about the sport he said, “I get enjoyment out of it…and the adrenaline.”