Len Grimsley Jr. is probably the best Nostalgia Super Stock racer you don’t know, we are going to change that, starting right now.
Not a man who wants to attract attention to himself, his low-maintenance exterior covers an intelligent mind whose sharp insights and perceptions quickly become apparent during one-on-one conversations in environments away from the race track.
“It’s all about the team,” said Grimsley Jr. “I’m not one for a lot of personal recognition, I’d rather let the car and what it does speak for itself. For us to do well as a group is more important than self-promotion.”
Len Grimsley Jr. with a nice launch at the 2015 Route 66 Classic
Along with Paul Habura and Jeff Burris, he is one of the three drivers on Len Grimsley Sr.’s ‘company team’. The group has one of the quickest collection of NSS cars in the nation. Somewhat ironically it turns out, Grimsley Jr. won the first competitive race he ever entered, an event at Norwalk, Ohio. The contest, the name of which Grimsley Jr. doesn’t recall, was televised on ESPN. “It was a deal that was piggybacked onto some other type of event,” he said. “Kind of amazing, I had no idea what I was doing.”
He didn’t have a clue about drag racing? Hardly. . . his father, Grimsley Sr., has been acquiring, building and racing cars in the northwest Chicago suburbs for well north of 50 years now. He has always been a Chrysler man and now has a shop stocked with Mopars of many styles and vintages.
As sons sometimes do in their 20’s, Grimsley Jr. did the contrarian thing and played with a 1967 Chevelle for a while and then a Buick Grand National, the first car the father and son collaborated on. “Dad took things a little more seriously than I did,” said Grimsley Jr. “I mostly drove it on the street.” “I bought it for him as a college graduation present,” said Grimsley Sr. “We bought all the aftermarket goodies but were not going fast. We both got frustrated with it.”
Len Grimsley Jr waiting patiently to get on the track
Grimsley Jr.‘s current ride, a 1964 Plymouth station wagon named ‘Fire and Faith’, is both a symbol of the group’s dedication to going fast and the commitment to doing that the right way. The car is also still a work in progress with the red paint being gradually changed to black. The name and paint color is a continuation of the ‘Keepin’ the Faith’ car of Habura, one of the quickest cars in NSS racing. “We figured it would be kind of catchy to have two cars with similar names and paint,” said Grimsley Jr.
Two-door post and hardtop 1964 Plymouths are among the most numerous in NSS racing but Grimsley Jr.‘s idea of building a station wagon is more unconventional than the well-known engineering concept of having more weight over the rear wheels. “I’ve always had an affinity for wagons,” he said. “When I was five or six years old I remember seeing a Chevrolet Nomad and I just loved the way it looked.”
Here is Len Grimsley Jr with a great shot from the rear at Great Lakes Dragaway - Another great shot of the 64 Plymouth wagon
‘Fire and Faith’ was originally purchased by the Colorado Department of Forestry and has a very rare 999 paint code, which means it could have been painted any color. But in keeping with the first use, it was sort of a dull brown. From some friends in Minnesota, the Grimsleys learned the car was available from long-time NHRA racer Al Corda, who is also a track owner in Rock Falls, Wisconsin. “It had low miles and was in good shape,” said Grimsley Jr. “We replaced the floor pans but there was no other rust on it.”
“For me, it’s always been the wagons. I’ve just always thought they were cool and different, especially for race cars and with this one we wanted to carry that a step farther.” After acquisition and construction were finished in 1995, the car’s initial outing was at River Falls.
Sr. and Jr. spent two seasons in the mid 10’s and the next two seasons did index racing in the National Muscle Car Association and the old Chrysler Classic. They gradually moved into quicker and quicker indexes, but that road proved to be a rough way to get educated.
“The guys in those series are very good,” said Grimsley Jr. “In the Chrysler Classic I did fairly well, made it to the finals several times. But I kept coming up with new and interesting ways to lose. One time I had a 0.000 reaction time but didn’t get there first.”