2015 Pro & S/P Champion
& Driver of the Year
Tracking a champion: Gramlich, 23, makes Mid-Michigan
Motorplex history with help from drag racing-oriented
Gramlich had plenty of trophies at home from his drag
racing career, which is going on 15 years and
counting. One weekend separated the 23-year old from
arguably his biggest accomplishment yet — a track
championship at Mid Michigan Motorplex.
Larry and brother Matt were at the track with him,
like always. His mother, Terri, brother Marc and
sister Lisa were also there for the Labor Day Weekend
races, in anticipation of celebrating not just one
championship, but two.
that had never been done before in the track’s
realized he could possibly win both championships, I
said, ‘Mike, quit looking at the points,” said Brian
Horton, a family friend and the car owner of the
Malibu Michael was racing. “When you win it, they’ll
call you and tell you, you don’t have to worry about
it. Besides, I’m worried enough for all of us. You
just go out there and drive, that’s what we need you
10-20 rounds ahead in two different classes with two
different cars — a 2014 American dragster in the Super
Pro eighth-mile class and a 1978 Malibu in the
quarter-mile Pro class.
were two days of points races left. With the extra
cars coming for the three-day weekend event, that
meant more rounds of racing and more points his
competitors could make up.
along with the rest of the Gramlich family — was
stressed out. They were both his championships to
erased the drama that Saturday night, winning under
the lights in Super Pro and winning five rounds in the
Pro class, all but clinching the pair of titles.
me, I was excited when it happened, but I sit back and
think and it doesn’t seem real,” Michael said. “I’ve
won some big races in big cars and they’ve all been
great, but to tackle something that’s a whole season
long and not only do it once, but do it twice in the
same year definitely has to be the top of the cake for
me right now.”
Michael’s dad Larry, who started racing in 1967 at the
age of 16, he said the most impressive part was seeing
his son drive two different cars, going back and forth
between rounds all season long.
driving two different animals,” Larry said. “You’re in
a dragster and you’re in a door car. I think adjusting
to that tree and being able to hit it as good as he
did (was difficult).”
time off the starting tree is one of the most crucial
elements of bracket racing, and Michael had to get in
two different rhythms. With the dragster, the use of a
timed delay box had him reacting to the top yellow
bulb with his hand. In the Malibu, he waited for the
bottom of the three yellow bulbs — which go off from
top to bottom in half-second increments — in order to
leave as soon as the light turned green.
dragster topped 130 mph in most eighth-mile passes,
while the Malibu hit roughly the same speed by the
said there was an advantage to driving in both
classes, though, even with the lack of time to prepare
between rounds as the field thins on a race day.
hectic, but it definitely keeps you focused,” Michael
said. “It’s one after the other. Even though there’re
so many differences between the two classes, you’re
just able to learn from (the) other, like how the
track’s doing. If the car slows down in Super Pro, you
know it’s probably going to slow down in Pro, too.”
said he’s wanted to drag race ever since he can
going to the racetrack back when I was probably 4 or 5
years old,” he said. “We used to have a pickup truck
and an open trailer and I’d play on the ramps of the
open trailer all day long. I’d sit in the bleachers
and watch racing all day. Really, as far back as I can
remember, I always wanted to do it.”
At 8 years
old, Michael jumped in the new junior dragster series
with help from his dad and his older siblings.
He had some
early success, including beating the reigning champion
— a 12-year old girl — in the final round of his third
“You had to
race kids who had been racing for four years,” Michael
said. “It was pretty much sink or swim. You either
caught on quick and could be successful, or found
yourself losing a lot. That helped me big time because
I’m real competitive, love the sport and always wanted
to be good. So racing the older kids, I’d say still to
this day, has helped me the most.”
Michael’s first win of many. Nevertheless, his dad
remembers some of the kinks they had to work out early
decided to teach Michael how to drive the finish line,
telling him to let off before the finish line if the
competitor is far behind, so as not to breakout and be
disqualified. Michael misinterpreted the directions in
his first try.
launched it, got to the first cone and lifted. I’m
going, ‘Oh my gosh, he lifted at the 60-foot cone,’
Larry said. “He goes, ‘Dad, I did what you said. I
looked over and lifted. Then I got back on it, but
they got around me.’ I go, ‘You’ve got to lift down at
the mile per hour cone.’ So we got that straightened
mentioned a time when the family thought the throttle
was sticking on the junior dragster. After some
tinkering with the car and a bit of head-scratching,
they discovered Michael was hitting the gas and brake
pedals at the same time when trying to hit the brakes.
learned quickly. At 10, Michael won his first junior
dragster championship and soon was traveling to
multiple different tracks across state lines to drag
race. Horton said he’s been family friends with the
Gramlich’s for years and started to race with Michael
when the kid was barely a teenager.
been going racing with me since he was about 13 when
he started traveling around to different events around
the country with me,” Horton said. “He’s been real
close to me. I had a brother that passed away racing
11 years ago and Mike started going with me a lot and
helping me in my racing.”
a taste of running double duty as a young driver,
winning track championships in Milan, Michigan and
Norwalk, Ohio in the same year.
that had points races at both tracks, his family would
race at one track early in the day, load up the
trailer and then make the 106-mile trek to the other
In 2004, he
captured the IHRA Division 3 Championship and was the
runner up at the Eastern Conference Finals in Bristol,
Tennessee in 2006.
Gramlich had made a name for himself in the juniors.
The next step was the transition to the bigger cars,
with some help from his racing-oriented family.
Continuing the legacy
adults don’t understand the ins and outs of drag
racing, it’s second nature to the Gramlich’s. Matt
said his 4-year old son is already counting down the
days until he turns six, when he can hop in a junior
dragster of his own.
that don’t understand bracket racing, it’s hard for
them to come and watch,” Larry said. “But my grandson,
who’s 4, can sit in the grandstands and explain it to
them. He already knows what to do on the top bulb and
what to do on the bottom bulb and he watches the
racing and it’s pretty neat.”
the racetrack for the Gramlich’s aren’t just a time
for competition, but also a time to be able to spend
time together as a family.
“It’s not a
hobby, it’s a lifestyle,” Matt said. “If you don’t go,
you’re sitting at home wishing you were there. And
when you’re there, you’re with the family, so
obviously it’s something you want to do. We joke when
it rains, I guess this is what people do when they go
days of points racing is part of the reason why the
Gramlich’s like Mid Michigan Motorplex, despite being
158 miles from their hometown near the Michigan-Ohio
border in Maybee, Michigan.
at a campground, there are the campfires, the family
friends and the quiet, cool nights away from home.
While other families relax and enjoy nature during the
daytime of their weekend trips, its adrenaline and
fast cars that make up the Gramlich’s nature.
definitely something I would never trade,” Michael
said. “Most kids spend time with their parents doing
something they like in high school sports or grade
school sports, but once that’s over, they kind of go
their separate ways and have to find new interests.
With this, I was born into it and have been doing it
since I was 8 and loved every second of it.”
question Michael and the Gramlich family will return
to the track in 2016, even after sweeping the Super
Pro and Pro class championships. His goal is to race
the six NHRA Division 3 races in the Super Street and
Super Comp series’, while still racing in Super Pro
and Pro on the other weekends.
accomplished feats that no other driver has in Mid
Michigan Motorplex’s history, his friends and family
think his potential is even higher.
concentration, his will to do it and his passion for
the sport (make him a talented driver),” Matt said.
“That’s what he wants to do every weekend, that’s
where he wants to be. His buddies might be doing
something else, but it’s the drive to want to do it.”
who has worked with many talented drivers, collecting
four division titles and one world championship as an
owner — had similar compliments for the 23-year old.
not very many people I would just let take my stuff,”
Horton said. “If he minimizes mistakes, he’s going to
win a lot more and I think he’s got a bright future in
the sport, whether it be on his own or with me.”
Story by Taylor
P.O. Box 667
2589 N. Wyman Rd.
Stanton, MI 48888
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