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Freshman selected as finalist for Mazda-sponsored race

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Freshman selected as finalist for Mazda-sponsored race

Courtesy of Hannah Grisham

Courtesy of Hannah Grisham

Courtesy of Hannah Grisham

by Lauren J. Mapp, Senior Staff Writer

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San Diego State business administration freshman Hannah Grisham was selected as one of the top four candidates in the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout.

“It’s the next step on a ladder to sports car (racing’s) premier event, and that’s the Daytona 24-Hour Race,” Grisham’s coach, James Brown, said. “It’s a super important step, not the first step, but certainly the first step into pro racing.”

Since the 18-year-old was selected as one of the four finalists, Grisham competed  in a race on Dec. 7 at the Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. She participated in the competition against Loni Unser, Matthew Dirks and Michael Carter, driving Global MX-5 Cup cars.

Carter won the race and received a $100,000 scholarship and will compete in the 2019 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, according to a Mazda USA press release.

“Mazda considers themselves to be a grassroots type of company, so they do a lot of giving back to younger drivers and give you more opportunities to work your way up to being a professional driver,” Grisham said.

Following in the steps of her father, who raced motorcycles, Grisham has been racing since she was 6 years old.

“My dad used to race motorcycles when he was younger, so he had decided that he wanted to get me into racing,” Grisham said. “I liked it a lot — it was kind of a thing my dad and I did for fun for a lot of years before it started getting really competitive. I like it — I like going fast and the competitiveness.”

She started with go-kart racing and has progressed as she aged, now racing in a 1999 Mazda Miata MX5 that has been slightly modified.

“Mazda Miatas are not the fastest cars — they’re kind of slower than most — but what they’re known for is that they handle really well,” Grisham said. “Even if they’re up against some really fast, super car, we’re usually able to keep up with them in the turns.”

Describing her as “an awesome driver,” Brown said as a car owner, Grisham is the “dream” driver to have racing for him.

“She’s a car owner’s dream — there’s something about her driving when you’re watching her,” Brown said. “I always know the car that Hannah is driving — there’s something about it, it’s aggressive, but it’s calm and cool and methodical and calculated, all at the same time.”

Brown added that as her coach and the owner of the car she competes in, he is confident his car is safe in Grisham’s hands.

“You can send her out with confidence and you know that your car is coming back in one piece — and you know it’s coming back at the front of the pack,” Brown said.

If she doesn’t pursue a professional career in racing, Grisham said she will put her imminent business degree to use. After driving for more than 12 years, however, she said she hopes it will always continue to be a part of her life.

“Racing is in my family, and I have been doing it since I was so young that it is pretty much a part of my life,” Grisham said. “I can’t even remember a time in my life when I haven’t been racing, and it brings a lot of people together.”

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