During the peak of the Busch North Series in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, some of the top drivers to ever call the Northeast home could be found with the Tour in any given race. At a time where names like Stefanik, Christopher, and Santerre were at the top of their game in Busch North, New Hampshire driver Brad Leighton was right there among them as a driver to beat week in and week out.
Leighton won Busch North titles in 1999 and 2000, a two-year span that saw him win nine races and finish in the top 10 in all but six of the 38 races that were run. In his career, Leighton won 24 races in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East, good for second all-time behind Kelly Moore.
He ran select ACT Late Model races in his final few years before hanging up the steering wheel after the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011. Leighton has since spent his time in the real estate world, developing for both residential and commercial purposes in his home state of New Hampshire.
What started as something to do during his career really took off after his retirement from the sport nine years ago, which has left him wondering how much time he’s really had in the day.
“I didn’t realize I had this much time on my hands. I dabbled in it while I was running Busch North and then when that got done I had a lot more time on my hands,” Leighton told Speed51. “I actually built a couple hotels, a Hampton Inn, a Hilton Garden Inn. I’ve been staying busy that way and spending some time with the family, it’s been all good.”
Leighton drove for the late Steve Griswold’s GRIZCO Racing team for much of his career, which included his two Busch North titles and an ACT Pro Stock title in 1995. The partnership between the two went much further than at the track, having worked together in the developing world before Griswold’s passing in 2013.
He credits Griswold for what he’s been able to accomplish, both as a racer and in the real estate world.
“I was so fortunate to be involved through my racing career with really good owners and good crew. That was, in my opinion, the reason I was so successful those years I ran. I ran for my best friend Steve Griswold for 18 years and I did a lot of developing with him and he taught me a lot.”
Later in his career, Leighton played a big role in four-time Busch North champion Andy Santerre joining Griswold for his final championship season in 2005 alongside Leighton and Mike Stefanik. Leighton’s connections between the two led to a much bigger role outside the sport with the duo, one that Santerre talked about for his “Where Are They Now?” story.
“I was very instrumental in having Andy and his wife Sue start working with GRIZCO, Steve and Peggy. Andy’s extremely talented and he was running a great race team and Steve was the type of guy that always wanted to advance himself and the people he was around. That was definitely an advancement when we moved everything to North Carolina.”
Today, Leighton finds himself completely out of the racing loop due to his duties in real estate development. He finds himself surprised that he was able to go racing for as long as he did, considering his hectic work schedule. With all that, he is thankful for what he had accomplished behind the wheel and has nothing to regret from those days.
“I find that I don’t even have time to watch it on TV when it was running, it’s crazy. I’m surprised that we were able to work and do all the racing that we did over the years. Time went by and we grew away from the sport, unfortunately. No regrets at all though, we had a heck of a run.
“I feel so fortunate that the peak of my career was the peak of the Busch North Series relative to the exposure we were getting,” he added. “In 1997, 1998, 2000, we were on CBS at Watkins Glen and we had some coverage that way. I was really fortunate to be involved at that point, I’m thankful for that.”
Click here to view “Where Are They Now?” stories that have been done on other drivers to see what they have been up to since exiting the sport.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Howie Hodge