|Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs|
In a recent interview with Skirts and Scuffs, Gresham spoke about his introduction to racing, how he made his way into NASCAR, and what his goals are for the future.
Max Gresham knew he wanted to pursue racing as a career from the time he was 10 or 11 years old.
“My grandfather got me started when I was about eight,” said the native of Milner, Georgia. “He had raced some back in his younger days with some drag car stuff and I had a little fuel go-kart there on the farm and he just saw I liked driving so figured we’d try and go to a little Bandolero and see how it went. I fell in love with it and just kept pursuing and pursuing and now I’m here.”
“Here” is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving the No. 8 Made in U.S.A. Brand Silverado for Eddie Sharp Racing. And though he’s just 20 years old, he’s been racing for 12 years.
With the backing of his grandfather, Gresham started in the Bandolero Bandit Series in 2002, where he scored 16 wins over the course of three years. In 2005, he moved up to Legends cars, where he showed even more promise, earning 11 wins and 69 top-ten finishes in 89 starts, along with the 2006 Semi-Pro Legends Championship.
Before long he was racing Pro and Super Late Models, notching five wins, 12 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes, paving the way for his transition to ARCA racing and the K&N East Series, where he won the 2011 championship.
While Gresham would have preferred to go straight to the Nationwide Series, the Camping World Truck Series provided a less expensive alternative for the young racer.
“I just had a better truck opportunity available. I would have preferred to go straight into the Nationwide, but I just didn’t have the opportunity,” said Gresham.
He made three Truck starts for Stacy Compton in 2011, then in 2012 ran 13 races for Joe Denette Motorsports. He finished 24th in points despite having four DNFs in his limited schedule.
He’s doing better in 2013, making all nine starts so far this season. Sitting 18th in points with his third place at Charlotte his first top five in the NCWTS, Gresham’s not satisfied. He wants to be in Sprint Cup, winning races and championships.
“Anybody that gets into racing, that’s what you want to be, you want to be the guy on top, and that’s what I want to be.”
Right now Gresham’s focus, and that of most of NASCAR Nation, is on the CarStart Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday. Though he’s not far removed from his short-track roots, Gresham’s experience is on asphalt, not dirt.
“I ran a few races at Volusia in a dirt modified at the beginning of the year,” explained Gresham. "Besides that I don’t have any experience but we’re going to test pretty heavy here in the next few weeks in a full-blown truck to hopefully get some experience and understanding of what it’s going to feel like when we get to Tony’s place.”
When I asked Gresham if he was excited about racing at the legendary Ohio track as NASCAR returns to dirt for the first time in 42 years, he quickly answered, “Very!”
“It’s going to be a heck of a race. There’s a bunch of really great competitors and they all want to win that race. It’s the freak show, it’s one of a kind. It may never happen again so we all want to win that race so you can be like ‘Yeah, I won the Eldora race.’”
He’s almost as excited about the Trucks foray into road racing at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in September.
“They’re fun,” Gresham said of road races. “I ran one in a K&N car in 2010 and just had a blast. To have to do so many things in the truck is completely different from what we’re used to …we’re used to shifting twice and then holding it wide open for as long as we can stand, so to have to shift gears and brake and do a whole bunch of different things in a set time. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be difficult but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
So, does Gresham appreciate a challenging track?
“I like the more challenging places,” he said. “The ones you have to run a finer dance line around. Places that just give it to you and are easy, everyone’s good at them, so places where you can make a difference are always more fun.”
Off the track, Gresham’s idea of fun is spending time with his family and their animals. He says he prefers to be in the woods or on the water than anywhere that’s not a racetrack. “I’m just a Southern guy,” he told me.
Finally, I like to end interviews by asking the subject to pick a fantasy team with two drivers from the pre-Modern or early Modern era, and two from current or future drivers.
Gresham didn’t have to think long about the first two. "I’d like to have Dale Earnhardt. That’s a pretty good guy to have. And I think Richard Petty. Two big names that are really big."
"For the modern era, I’d like Carl Edwards…and I want a young guy…I was going to say Ty [Dillon]…I love racing with him.”
Pretty good choices. Gresham says Edwards is "...the full package. He can talk, he can drive, he does the right thing at the right time."
And Dillon? Two quintessential Southern boys who love the outdoors and racing?
They'd go hunting together, of course.
Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.
She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.