Scott Grondahl doesn’t have an expensive trailer to haul his 2011 BMW S1000RR sportbike to and from the track. He still uses a manual clutch, while many of his drag racing opponents have turned to automated shifters in hopes of gaining a competitive edge.
Some might call Grondahl’s approach “old school” or even “low budget,” and he’s just fine with that.
After all, he’s the one smiling in the winner’s circle.
The 52-year-old Caldwell native won the Sled/Bike championship — and a coveted Wally trophy — at the NHRA Summit Racing Series Northwest Division Finals last month at Firebird Raceway.
“Scott is totally old school ... and that’s what’s impressed us over the years, just how good he is, a natural talent,” Firebird Raceway General Manager Scott New said. “He’s really gained the admiration of all of his peers, too, because a lot of them came down to the winner’s circle to congratulate him and all they could say is, ‘You don’t have all the automated stuff the rest of us have. You’re doing it the old way, and you actually pulled it off.’”
By winning a division title, Grondahl qualified to compete Nov. 8-11 alongside some of the sport’s most famous drivers at the 2018 NHRA World Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. The event will be televised on FS1.
Grondahl will try to become just the third racer in Firebird history to win a national title, joining Jackie Alley of Eagle and Rich Pedraza of Boise.
“I can’t put it into words. I can’t even fathom what’s ahead of me,” Grondahl said. “It’s hard for me to be at work and not just scream like a little kid.”
Grondahl was so excited after his win over Terry Holloway, of Yakima, Washington, in the division final on Sept. 1 that he jumped off his bike and started shaking hands with anyone and everyone.
Then he remembered to call his wife, Chyrl.
She almost didn’t believe him.
“I called her up and I said, ‘I did it.’ She said, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’” Grondahl said. “I’m like, no, I won the Wally. We’re going to Pomona.’”
On most days, that Wally trophy sits next to the TV at Grondahl’s home. On Thursday, he buckled it into the front seat of his car and drove to Firebird for one last weekend of fine tuning before nationals.
Just to be safe, Grondahl will be racing his other motorcycle — a 2009 Honda CBR 1000RR — throughout the 25th annual NAPA Auto Parts Halloween Classic. His BMW will still be on hand for fans who want to see the 145-mph machine up close.
“The people in his class, a lot of them go just as quick as our Pro bracket racers, and Pro bracket people have five-point restraining harnesses. They have roll cages around them, doors, windows,” New said. “In (Sled/Bike), you’re just hanging out there in the open with your two hands hanging on. It takes a rare talent and breed to be able to drive either a sled or a motorcycle at the speeds they’re capable of going.”
Firebird’s Halloween Classic
What: The 25th annual NAPA Auto Parts Halloween Classic
Where: Firebird Raceway
When: Friday through Sunday. Gates open at 8 a.m. each day
Tickets (each day): $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and younger