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Speed News May 2017

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M E M B E R S P O T L I G H T O n any given Sunday when NASA's Mid- Atlantic region is racing, Rober t Grace will be standing atop the podium celebrating another Spec E30 win. Grace has dominated the class. Just look at his record: Two NASA National Championships, an 81.6 percent winning percentage in Spec E30 since 2011 and last year he earned the pole position in 11 races. When Grace collects his trophies, the Spec E30 classmates are there to cheer him on even though he beats them regularly on the track. ROBERT GRACE Age: 28 Region: Mid-Atlantic Hometown: Herndon, Va. Racing Class: Spec E30 Sponsors: bimmerparts.com Day Job: Corporate strategy at Rolls-Royce Favorite Food: Beef Favorite TV Show: "Family Guy" Favorite Movie: "The Departed" Favorite Book: "Stan the Hot Dog Man" Favorite Track: VIR Dream Racecar: E30 M3 DTM "Rober t is a gentleman in the paddock and a robot behind the wheel. He is just the guy that knows how to get out front, stay out front," said Charlie Diradour, a fellow racer and friend of Grace. "If you're at the tip of the spear of Spec E30 in NASA, as we all know, you're a racecar driver." Grace has been the leader of the Mid-Atlantic's Spec E30 class since joining the class in 2010 af ter coming from the HPDE ranks. He picked the Spec E30 over Spec Miata because the BMW better fit his 6-foot, 3-inch frame. "I wanted to be in a spec class because I wanted to know that it was driver versus driver, and you're not getting outspent," said the 28-year-old Grace. "I didn't really want any excuses. It just made sense. The Spec E30 cars were at a good price point for the performance and there were a lot of them." Grace still races the same BMW he bought at age 21 to join the Spec E30 class. His father, Seth, ser ves as the mechanic, chef and the paddock's go-to guy. The younger Grace credits his father for his on-track success, saying, "There are plenty of times without his suppor t I'd have a DNF or not even star t." Grace's approach to racing is the same today as it was seven years ago — get a lead early and hold it. For Grace that star ts in qualif ying and being the fastest qualifier. Last year he earned the pole at 11 of 13 races, and led most of those races from star t to finish. "I just want to do my best ever y single time I'm on track and it doesn't matter if I'm out there with a bunch of rookies or a bunch of professionals," Grace said. "I'm going to approach it the same way and my goal is always the same." Chris Cobetto, NASA Mid- Atlantic regional director and Spec E30 racer, said few drivers qualif y as consistently as Grace. "He is a ver y rare combination of an excellent qualifier and an excellent racer," Cobetto said. "A lot of times it's one or the other. Somebody can lay down a fast lap in qualif ying, and they may even be able to turn that same fast lap in a race, but a lot of times that personality ends up driving the car off the track at some point. He doesn't do that." Grace uses pole position to get the early lead and put some distance between the Spec E30 field. "I want BRET T BECKER NEWLIN KEEN/TR ACK TIMEPHOTOS.COM 68

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