One of the bigger gains this season to the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco roster was the addition of second-generation driver Kyle Grissom. The 2012 PASS South champion moves over to face the challenges of the Southern Super Series and high speed facilities that make up the schedule in 2014.
"We wanted to make the change to run against better competition and on some of these tracks I have never had the opportunity to race on," said Grissom. "These guys are the cream of the crop down here in the deep south. My dad ran down here for years and now I get to run some of the same places he did."
Kyle's father Steve Grissom not only ran in the deep south, but won the 1985 All Pro Super Series Championship. That series was created by Bob Harmon, whose vision led a new generation of short track aficionados to create the Southern Super Series, now in its second season.
One of those tracks that the elder Grissom ran on was Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in Tennessee. Steve's family grew up in nearby Gadsden, Alabama which was only three hours to the Fairgrounds track. In his Championship season, Grissom finished fifth and 16th in the two All Pro starts at Nashville.
"It seems like dad would always talk about Nashville," said Kyle Grissom. "I have only run there once and I enjoyed it, but I want to do better. We want to run well. We know success will take time, but if we could win a race then we know we have accomplished a lot."
Grissom hopes to roll out a brand new car for the high-banks of Nashville this weekend. He'll be making the switch to the Grand American Race Car for the 2014 season.
"When you come down south here you need to have something a little extra for these big tracks," added Grissom. "I am really excited to have a Grill car (GARC) to race with down here. Having the ability to talk to Augie Grill and get information and others guys like Bubba Pollard will help me get up to speed at these new venues to me."
It didn't take long for Grissom to make a splash in the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco. His first time out saw him keep his nose clean for 200 plus laps and then fight for a hard-earned fourth-place finish at the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway. Surprisingly a check of the records show that his uncle Phil Grissom also finished fourth in the Rattler back in 1980.
"We have struggled at some of the tracks we have run at," said Grissom. "Gresham and Pensacola have not been kind to us, but we want to get better and contend each week. It's a long season and we want to be in the mix all year."
Pushing The Numbers: With the fresh faces that came out to run the 2014 season opener, there have now been over 100 drivers to earn points in the Southern Super Series. Expectations are for that number to grow all season long as the series goes up and down the fastest tracks in the deep south.
New Hitters in the Order: Much like a baseball team would in advance of Opening Day, the Southern Super Series reloaded in the off season to bring on some key full time drivers for 2014. Casey Smith, who captured two Pro Late Model track championships in Texas last year, will be going for the title. Kyle Grissom is a former PASS South Champion looking for another challenge after chasing points in the Carolinas for years. Casey Roderick won the Rattler 250 and that momentum will ride him into Nashville as he and the Graham Motorsports team look to keep momentum going. Anderson Bowen is looking to avoid any schedule mishaps and balance his SSS title run with some K&N and ARCA races. Justin South makes the switch back to Super Late Models after winning a bunch in Pro Late Models the last few years. Zak Hausler is also looking to chase points as is Dennis Reno, Jr.
Throw these guys in the ring with stalwarts Daniel Hemric, Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill, John Hunter Nemechek, Hunter Robbins, Allen Karnes and Donnie Wilson and it will make for one exciting season.
That's a Good Start: The first four drivers beneath the checkered flag in the Rattler 250 all scored their career-best Southern Super Series finish. Roderick won the race in only his third Southern Super Series start. Hard to imagine, but he is the fourth driver to win a SSS race in his third start. Below are each for the series winners and which start number it was first their first victory.
Bubba Pollard (1st Start)
Preston Peltier (1st Start)
Augie Grill (3rd Start)
TJ Reaid (3rd Start)
Casey Roderick (3rd Start)
Chase Elliott (3rd Start)
Kyle Benjamin (4th Start)
Daniel Hemric (7th Start)
Streaks Ending: No driver that finished in the top 10 at the final race from 2013, the All American 400, finished in the top 10 at the Rattler 250. This is the first time this has happened in the series. It was also the first time in the series that defending series champion Daniel Hemric didn't finish the race. Hemric finished all but two laps in 2013 and posted top 10's in all events.
Streaks Beginning: Could the Roderick win be the start of a first-time winners streak? It's possible, but only time will tell. The fast time award set by Casey Smith also marked the third different face to win a pole in the last three races dating back to last season. That happened at the beginning of the 2013 season as well.
Gresham Entry Forms Available: The series' two stops at Jefferson, Georgia's Gresham Motorsports Park don't appear on the schedule until July and August, but the entry forms are now available on the track website and on the series website. The first race of the season at Gresham Motorsports Park will be on July 12th with the World Crown 300 taking place on August 9th.
Bubba Pollard won the springtime stop at Gresham a year ago and North Carolina driver Preston Peltier captured the World Crown 300 in August. Peltier is expected to join the Southern Super Series for select events in 2014.
Behind the Eight Ball: Stephen Nasse was the lone driver who finished in the top 10 in points a year ago and also posted a top 10 in the 2014 season opener. Nasse is planning a limited schedule, but he has all the drivers he was chasing in 2013 behind him.
The pre-season favorites will now have to come from behind to move back up the championship ladder. There is no need to stress that points are very important each and every week as the inaugural Southern Super Series title came down to a single point at the All American 400 last year.
Meanwhile on the Gulf Coast: While a bunch of Super Late Model teams heading north to go to Nashville there are some that are still awaiting the Deep South portion for the schedule to start on April 25 and 26. Drivers such as Mike Garvey, Logan Boyett, DJ VanderLey, David Rogers and several others are expected to join the Southern Super Series as a part of the Gulf Coast Championship series during events at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida on the 25th and Mobile International Speedway in Irvington, Alabama the next night. Last season the Gulf Coast produced five different winners in six races. The level of competition is not going to go down so the chances are it will be just as tough down there as usual.