Gracin Raz may not have been born into a racing family, but you would never know it if you talked to him.
The 16-year-old driver out of Portland, Oregon has defied the odds of living and racing outside the heart of NASCAR country (Charlotte, N.C.) to advance through the grassroots levels of motorsports over the past several years.
Raz, who began his racing career when he was six years old, began racing quarter midgets at the Portland Quarter Midget Club, where he quickly captured the attention of everyone who watched him race. During Gracin’s quarter midget career, the young driver scored six series and three Winter Nationals championships in addition to setting numerous track records that still stand today at tracks across Region 9 and the Pacific Northwest.
Today, Raz has 11 years of racing experience under his belt and is coming off an impressive Pro4 late model season with the Northwest Pro4 Alliance and FSCRA (Foreign Stock Car Racing Association), where he averaged a top five finish as a rookie driver in 2013 and scored his best stock car finish .
“For 2013 being my first full year in a stock car of any sort, I felt like we had a really solid season. We had a really strong run at the Fall Classic at Yakima Speedway and worked through a lot of adversity over the course of the year.”
“We were down on power with our motor package for a good part of the year and battled some mechanical troubles until about three races to go in our season, so the fact that we still had as strong results as we did made me really proud of our team and our accomplishments this year.”
Raz will look to carry his momentum and growing success from the end of the 2013 season into his 2014 campaign, where he will race with the FSCRA in a Super Late Model full-time.
“We’re heading into a big year with great equipment underneath me and a lot of support around Team GDR,” Gracin said. “I feel like this year is going to be our time and I have no doubts about the direction we’re heading.”
Some of Gracin’s strongest support has come in the form of his younger brother Kole. Kole was born in 2003 — remarkably during the same month that Gracin began racing. The brothers have carried a very special bond between them over the years, and when Kole began racing in 2007, Gracin designed a special “GK” logo and created the motto “2 Brothers, 1 Vision” to connect he and Kole on track.
“Kole and I have always supported each other both on and off-track and having his support every time I roll out to race is important to me,” Gracin explained. “I designed the GK logo when Cole started racing because I always wanted part of each of us to be on track with the other no matter what. It may seem like a little thing, but really, between the two of us it’s a lot more.”
“Even if there’s a time when one of us can’t be there physically for the other, we’re there on the car, and that makes a difference.”
To carry their connection forward, Gracin elected to have the GK logo as one of the most prominent decals on his 15 car, and continues to proudly display the logo going into 2014.
In addition to grabbing the attention of his onlookers and competitors, Gracin has used his racing program as a powerful means to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2013, Gracin partnered with the Get UP! Foundation, an initiative dedicated to lifting the hearts of children who face adversity in any aspect of their life due to life circumstances, disabilities or other situations.
The Foundation was formed in 2013 in honor of Gracin’s Uncle Graydon, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Graydon inspired those around him through his spirit and commitment to “get up and go” by making the most of tough situations. In his brief but powerful seven years of life, Graydon exemplified the power within the human spirit to make a difference.
Gracin’s first work with Get UP! came in 2013 when he heard the story of his weight training coach, Mr. Watts’, young son Parker. Parker was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and had just begun facing the challenges of his diagnosis when Gracin became involved with the Watts family through the Get UP! Foundation.
“When I heard Parker’s story, it really spoke to me and got me thinking, ‘How can I do something to give back, to help them out?’ I knew I wanted to make a difference in any way that I could, and
After his first race, Gracin provided the Watts Family with a check for $225, combining his race winnings with an additional contribution from another racing family to assist the Watts with Parker’s medical needs. For his charity and impact, Gracin was recognized by the Watts in front of the student body at Lakeridge High School, and says that moment has stuck with him ever since.
“I know a lot of people may say it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but you know, to see the looks on their faces and know how much that little action meant to them, it made a difference far bigger than just the dollar amount. That’s what Get UP! is all about.”
To learn more about Parker’s story, please check out http://www.sparrowclubs.org/sparrows/parker-watts.
In total last year, Gracin contributed close to $1000 to two families by donating some of his race earnings as well as collecting private contributions.
“Knowing what I do on the track has the chance to touch the life of a child going through a hard time makes every lap that much more important to me,” said Gracin of how his on-track exploits work in tandem with his efforts with the Get UP! Foundation.
Gracin will carry his commitment to the Get UP! Foundation forward in 2014, where he will travel more than 20,000 miles and rub wheels with some of the most talented drivers across the country, including current NASCAR K&N Pro Series and ARCA Racing Series drivers.
As Gracin and his team look forward to their 2014 campaign, the Oregon teenager says he looks back on his road to the present and sees nothing he would change, nor does he question whether he is right where he needs to be.
“Sometimes you just know the path you’re meant to follow. Racing, without any doubt, is that path for me,” said Gracin of his chosen profession. “I can choose to focus on all of the things that may not be in my favor, or I can keep building on everything that is.”
“We’ve defied the odds so far to get where we are today. I hope 2014 is just another step in that journey, and I couldn’t be more excited to get things started.”
Listen in to our full interview with Gracin as we talk about how he got his start in motorsports and his path through the ranks on the West Coast over the past couple of years:
At the age of six, Gracin Raz began racing quarter midgets where he secured nine regional and national titles, and set numerous track records still standing today. In 2013, Gracin advanced to Pro4 late model racing where he averaged a top five finish alongside seasoned professionals. Gracin is sponsored by The Master Wrench, Inc., Shotgun Creek, and West Hills Collision Center, and actively seeking to expand his team of partners. Additional information on Gracin and his team can be found at www.gracinrazracing.com and facebook/gracinrazracing.
About the Get UP! Foundation:
At the core of Get UP! is the belief that we must believe in ourselves, be accountable for our behavior, and make a difference in the lives of others. Get UP! is committed to lifting one heart at a time. Gracin Raz Racing works in tandem with the Get UP! initiative to provide help and support for disadvantaged children and their families. If you would like to support the Get UP! Foundation, please contact email@example.com for information on how you can create awareness on track and help lift the hearts of children facing adversity.
As Published in the Portland Tribune | Thursday, 06 March 2014 | Written by Saundra Sorenson
If you ask Gracin Raz what he wants to be when he grows up, you’ll find the Horizon Christian High junior’s answer hasn’t really changed since he was 3: race car driver.
He didn’t really get serious about it until he was 5. That’s when he heard the call of Quarter Midget Racing at Alpenrose Dairy.
“I heard the cars go, and I had a sense of urgency to go watch them,” Raz said.
He began his career in earnest at the age of 6 — “I got into racing a couple days after my brother was born, that’s how I count it,” he explained — and he’s picked up the support of his family and a handful of sponsors along the way.
Now, the 16-year-old drives a 2010 Hamke straight-rail chassis with a Chevy Impala body, propelled by a 625-horsepower, eight-cylinder engine, and competes as often as he can.
“It’s a real balance between my racing program and my brother’s racing programs,” Raz said. “He’ll have around 10 as well this year.”
Still, he adds, “I’m a first-generation racer in our family.” Despite his father’s nearly lifelong love of watching indycar races and attending events at the Portland International Raceway, Raz said, “I was the first one to really be racing cars.”
Aside from his parents signing off on his taste for risky competition — they accompany him to races, sometimes hauling his vehicle behind the family motor home — his mother, Cindy, plays a savvy public relations role in Raz’s blossoming career as a driver. As owner of his own garage, called Master Wrench, Raz’s father Kurt lends his technical skills and sponsorship.
“My dad owning his own mechanic shop has always been helpful,” Raz said. “When there’s a problem, he can diagnose it, and we can order parts online.”
Hopefully, the backing of his family and excellent track history thus far will propel Raz to where he wants to be: on the Hendrick Motorsports team.
“My ideal dream would be as a full-time driver for them, and to be able to race all 36 races of the NASCAR series and make it my living,” Raz said. “I could live a racing life. I’d go out every single weekend or day if I could.”
For Raz, of course, it’s the adrenaline rush of going 120 miles per hour or more and racing inches away from his competitors.
“That’s just the blast of it,” he said. “I love the competition. I’m extremely competitive — I can do rental go-karts, and I’ll be just as competitive there as I would be at the race track.”
His next race is the Apple Cup series on April 12 at Yakima Speedway, where he sounds most eager to go fender-to-fender with Cameron Hayley, a 17-year-old Toronto native whose star is on the rise.
“He’s a young talent, and he’s definitely going to be making it and moving up the ranks in NASCAR,” Raz said.
Not that any of the lesser-name drivers have ever let him down.
“I always have great competition,” he said. “It’s never a blowout.”
What most attracts him to the speedway?
“Trying to control the uncontrollable — it’s amazing,” he said.
But the hobby does have a significant cost.
“It’s definitely expensive, especially if you get involved in an accident,” Raz said. “That’s never fun, trying to get that back together.”
Luckily, he added, “Staying out of trouble on the track has been really one of my strengths. I’ve always been able to bring the car home in one piece, I didn’t get involved in a single accident last year.”
But the cost isn’t only monetary, it’s time.
He admits his main cadre of friends is comprised of “racing buddies,” and even his other extracurricular activity, participating in the DECA organization, is in support of what he hopes can be a livelihood on the track.
“My sole purpose of taking that was to help market myself, so I can promote myself in the best possible way I can,” Raz said. “I (hope to) learn the mind of a businessman, see what they want in their perspective, and try to apply that as a driver.”
Although he’s optimistic about his chances at a long racing career, he plans to at least get his general education course requirements for college out of the way.
“I’d like to not really major in anything, but just keep my options open,” he said.
But, he added, “I’d like to go into a college back east — Virginia or North Carolina.”
North Carolina being, of course, where four of NASCAR’s main offices are located, as well as several of its major speedways.
“Even if I’m not driving, I want to be around racing,” Raz said.
The Race for the Cure 100 on September 28 at the Yakima Speedway will be Team GDR’s final race of the season. Special thanks go to the Director of Marketing and Operations Bob Coply of the Northwest Pro4 Alliance for this awesome story released to the media today!
Team GDR went back-to-back weekends testing at the Yakima Speedway where they were joined by former quarter midget driver Alex Peck. Northwest Pro4 Alliance Director of Operations and Marketing Bob Coply called out efforts for both of our teams in his March 31 update to alliance members… “Also at Yakima Speedway were the cars of Gracin Raz and Alex Peck, seat time was the main topic of the day but word has it Raz ……was picking up the pace and at the end of the day laying down some very respectable laps.”
We will break this weekend and turn our focus to my brother Kole, who will begin his own testing for the upcoming quarter midget season. Team GDR will be back on track April 20 at the Wenatchee Speedway where we will test and tune for our opening race on April 27.
Thanks to my Dad Kurt Raz and Spotter Patrick Hillyer for the time they are giving to make our program race ready and to Alex Peck for working together on track!