As Augie Grill chases after a record-extending sixth Alabama 200 win this weekend, it will be his first time in a Pro Late Model in a year. His last PLM start came in last year’s Alabama 200, finishing 13th before handing the reigns of the No. 112 off to Grant Thompson for the rest of the year, while he focused on the Super Late Model and Modified.
It was a stat that Grill himself could hardly believe. Even with other starts throughout 2020, his time out of the Pro Late Model had gotten away from him.
“I still like driving for sure. It’s surprising that the last time I drove this car myself was at this time last year,” Grill told Speed51. “I’m pretty excited, it feels good to put the helmet back on and my suit and try it again.”
“We went down and practiced a little bit Saturday. I feel like we had a pretty good piece, made a few gains. I feel like we’ll have a pretty good shot at it this weekend.”
Grill himself was a decorated crew chief before his driving days, with a Snowball Derby win on top of the pitbox to go along with his two behind the wheel. He is one of only two people to win the Derby both as a crew chief and a driver in separate years.
However, it had been several years since he was on top of the pit box while another driver was driving his Grand American Race Car. Even with his past experience as a crew chief, 2020 proved to be a new challenge for the Hayden, Alabama driver.
“It was an eye-opening experience for sure. I was a crew chief before I ever started driving so I kind of knew that side of it, but it had been so long since somebody drove a car from my shop and for the shop. It was a little different figuring out what he needed and his terminology meant to making the car better. I thought we did a pretty good job of it and by the end of the year we got to where I felt like he was running good everywhere we went. It was definitely a learning experience and hopefully in the future a little bit more of that will happen.”
Grill’s success at Montgomery goes all the way back to 2003, when he made just his second-ever Late Model start at the half-mile with the Southern All Star Pro Late Model Series. He finished second to JR Norris that night in a field that included then-13 year old Joey Logano.
Since then, he has become one of the most decorated drivers in Montgomery Motor Speedway history. Grill has 23 wins in 69 starts at Montgomery, five of which came in the Alabama 200. His five wins are three more than any other driver in the race’s long history.
“For whatever reason, the first-ever race I ran there, it was my second time in a Late Model. It was a Southern All Stars Pro Late Model 100-lapper and I started 12th and finished second. I just fell right into getting around that place. It’s been pretty good to me over the years.
“I probably honestly should have won it another four or five more times than I did but for one reason or another I’ve had problems at the end or somebody outsmarted me at the end and not win,” he added. “It’s a pretty good race for me, it’s been my favorite track over the years and I always look forward to going there. It just fits my driving style for some reason.”
He admits that he is more than likely on the back end of his driving career. A sixth Alabama 200 win would help further cement his legacy as one of the best drivers to ever come out of the Southeast.
“It would be pretty cool because I feel like I’m in the waning stages of my driving career. Just to be able to get a win there would be neat. I’m still focused on getting my Super Late Model program a little bit better, hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be back to where I feel we need to be with it.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo