Max Gresham surprised his grandmother, Mary Jane Siggins, by painting his No. 8 Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet Silverado pink for Saturday's Kroger 200 at the Martinsville Speedway.
However, the tribute to commemorate her successful battle against breast cancer went to a new level when he finished with a career-best 11th-place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race.
The 19-year-old driver started 21st, and battled even more after an unscheduled pit stop for a tire rub that dropped him to 26th in the running order and a lap down, but he managed to climb the ranks to be the highest-finishing rookie.
While running in the 17th-postion another truck got into Gresham on Lap 51 resulting in the tire rub. It was not until 42 laps later that the Chris Showalter-led Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) team was able to pit under caution to resolve the issue.
"It's amazing what this Eddie Sharp Racing team accomplished," Gresham said. "We struggled in practice, but we got the truck dialed in for the race. We got a little behind with the flat tire. Showalter kept working on the truck and it was perfect at the end. We passed six trucks in the final 11 laps. It's too bad the race didn't have a few more laps."
The team kept the details of their tribute to Siggins for Breast Cancer Awareness Month quiet until race time. She was overwhelmed by the outpouring of appreciation. His Made In USA Brand marketing partners fully supported the program.
"A lot of love and effort went into this finish," the Georgia native said. "It was a battle, which makes it even more satisfying. Martinsville was everything we expected: a lot of beating and banging. We got hit early in the race and that cut down a tire. But like my grandmother, we didn't give up. We kept fighting and we came away with our best finish."
Gresham and Eddie Sharp Racing have two more selected starts for this year, including next week's WinStar World Casino 350K at the Texas Motor Speedway. The team will go there with plenty of momentum from their past efforts and results.
"Martinsville was just the third race for this team," Showalter said. "You can't imagine how far we've come in a very short time. We get better with every lap. Eleventh-place at Martinsville was good, especially after we got behind with the flat tire.
"Now the goal is to improve on that at Texas Motor Speedway."
Gresham, the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, felt at home on the half-mile, paper-clip-shaped race track. His family owns and operates Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., as track popular in the NASCAR community for testing.
"Being on a short track really played to my strength," Gresham said. "Once we got the truck headed in the right direction, I really got comfortable. We ran our fastest laps at the end of the race."
Which was the greatest tribute to everyone involved at Eddie Sharp Racing.
Max Gresham PR