MOBILE, Ala. — Grant Thompson has secured a ride with Casey Johnson and Alverson Motorsports for the Tundra Super Late Model Series season in Wisconsin.
Thompson, 14, will contest the six-race schedule behind the wheel of one of Johnson’s potent entries, with Texas businessman John Alverson providing sponsorship through his Baja Industries brand.
The Alabama teenager will debut in the Tundra Series at Wisconsin Int’l Raceway in Kaukauna, Wis., on May 15.
“John has been one of my dad’s buddies for a while and he came down to the (Snowball) Derby to sponsor Kaden Honeycutt back in December. We talked for a little bit and he saw what I did in the Snowflake (100 pro late model race), and he told my dad if we needed any help with anything in the future to let him know,” Thompson recalled. “We needed a ride for this year and John knew Casey had really good stuff and that we were going to be in the best equipment we could to run up in Wisconsin. And it all came together from there.
“I talked to Casey a couple months ago, and asked him how he felt about it, and he said he was excited to try a little bit of something different,” Thompson added. “He’s usually behind the wheel of that car, but he’s had other (drivers) before and he’s excited to see what comes of this, just like I am.”
Thompson raced a pro late model in select events for Augie Grill last season — including the Snowflake 100, where he finished 12th after running inside the top 10 for part of the night — but this season’s Tundra effort will mark his first foray into super late model racing.
“I didn’t really think that we were going to be in a super (late model) this year because I haven’t had a ton of time in the pro (late model) just yet, but (West Coast car owner) Mike Naake said after we ran that junior (late model) race out in Arizona … he called my dad one day and said, ‘You need to get Grant in a super. He needs to get the feel for that kind of horsepower and the feel for that car because it drives a whole lot different than the junior car or even a pro late model.’
“It’ll definitely be a big jump for me, but it’s one that I’m excited to take on,” Thompson added. “It’s just the horsepower difference that I feel like will be the big thing, but I’m excited to get my feet wet this year and, hopefully, maybe next year we do even more (super late model racing).”
As a longtime veteran of the Northern Midwest super late model scene, Johnson is looking forward to the opportunity to oversee Thompson’s jump into the division and believes he’ll find his footing quickly in the Tundra Series.
“John was the one that connected the dots between Grant and I, and I’m glad he did because I’m looking forward to this deal,” Johnson noted. “John’s helped me out through my racing and he’s also helped Grant for a little while. When we were all talking down at the Snowball Derby, I suggested Grant running the Tundra Series to get his feet wet because it’s a competitive series that we’ve had success in over the last few years. I think he’ll be a good fit for it. It hits a broad range of tracks that I think will all be good for his development.
“Starting out at Kaukauna, a fast half mile with a lot of grip, will let him get a feel for the car before we go to a few tracks where it’s a lot lower grip, slower speeds, places where you really have to use your feet and work the wheel,” Johnson continued. “Those are the types of places where it’s not about raw speed and gripped-up race cars; you really get a feel for your race car that I think is valuable to have. And the group of guys who run the Tundra Series, they’re real respectful guys who don’t tear up race cars but still race really hard … and I think that’s important for a younger driver like Grant to learn from.”
From the sponsorship side, Alverson was glad to be able to see Thompson and Johnson link up and believes the potential for success is sizable for both sides.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on Grant’s progress for a while and supported him recently as he’s started to move into late models, and I feel like it’s a great opportunity for he and Casey to be able to work together in the Tundra Series this year,” Alverson said. “Casey has had a lot of success over the last few years with his team and he’ll be a veteran presence for Grant to lean on as he starts to learn the ins and outs of the super late models. I’m looking forward to seeing how the two of them work together and excited to see Grant contend for some solid finishes against the Tundra Series this summer.”
In Thompson’s eyes, the six races he’ll run this year with Johnson and Alverson could be a springboard to greater things, but he’s focused on learning and adapting to a new division first before focusing on chasing trophies.
“I mainly want to get some seat time with the (Tundra) guys and earn their respect as a driver,” tipped Thompson. “Hopefully, we can get some top-10 or top-five finishes; I’m not necessarily looking for a win right off the bat, but if we can get some pretty stout finishes and get the experience to run up front with those guys, I think that’d be a pretty good go of things.
“That’s mainly what I’m looking for right now and we’ll just take it one step at a time.”