When Grant Mitchell was 8 years old, he was similar to a lot of Nevada County boys, tearing up trails on his dirt bike and competing alongside his friends in basketball, baseball and football.
Little did he know that later that year, a Christmas gift for his 5-year-old sister would change his life and eventually make him a champion.
“My sister got a quad for Christmas one year, and I hopped on it and kind of loved it,” Mitchell said.
The siblings would spend the next few months vying for time on the quad, also known as an ATV, often arguing over whose turn it was to ride, said Mitchell.
Mitchell’s love for riding quads only grew as he shared riding time with his little sister.
“By my birthday, all I wanted to do was race quads,” he said. “For my ninth birthday, I got to go out to a track and race all day, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Since then, I’ve worked my way up to bigger and better quads and just been racing the WORCS series since I was 10.”
Nine years after he first laid eyes on his sister’s quad, Mitchell, now a senior at Nevada Union, is an elite quad racer who recently added a World Off Road Championship Series Pro-Am title to his many accomplishments.
Mitchell won the WORCS Pro-Am championship with an incredible late-season surge capped off by a thrilling win in the season’s final race.
“The last four rounds were my big push,” Grant said.
Like NASCAR, the WORCS title is decided by a point system, and coming into the final race in Primm, Nev., there were several contenders for the title, making it a win-the-race-and-win-the-series situation.
Mitchell was probably the hottest rider coming into the final race, having won two of the three races leading up to the race in Primm.
“My confidence was way up there,” he said.
Coming into the season’s final race, Mitchell trailed Bryce Pert in the points standings and needed a first-place finish to overtake him in the points race. But it wasn’t Pert who gave Mitchell trouble. It was Mitchell’s on-track rival, David Flores.
Flores passed Mitchell mid-way through the timed desert race, forcing Mitchell to dig deep if he was to claim the title.
“I just started wearing him down,” Mitchell said. “I started working on him. I knew I was physically better than him, so I just physically wore him out, he made a mistake, and I was able to get the pass.”
Mitchell trains six to seven times a week and puts anywhere from 30 to 40 hours a week into his training, which includes a personal trainer who keeps Mitchell in peak shape, he said.
As to what makes Mitchell such an effective driver, he said it’s many things.
“It’s a combination of things from the guys in the pits to my dad making sure everything is in tip-top shape and constantly training and improving my skill level,” he said.
Mitchell’s father, Rob, who is also the team’s mechanic said it is his son’s ability to overcome that is his strength on the track.
“His ability to overcome adversity and push beyond his limits,” Rob said is his son’s X-factor. “When he hits his limits, he has the ability to continue forward.”
After passing Flores, Grant took first with a total of 11 laps in the 1-hour, 45-minute time limit, the only racer to complete as many, and with the win also came the points championship.
Grant edged out Pert, who took fourth in the race, in the overall standings by two points, 163-161. Flores finished third in the Primm race and third in the points race with 157.
Though Grant was an immediate success, as his room walls littered with trophies, plaques and magazine covers would indicate, he struggled when he reached the pro-am series. Grant hit a major bump in the road in 2011 when he broke his thumb during a race in Grass Valley.
After the accident, Grant endured surgery on the battered finger and spent 12 weeks in a cast.
“I had lost all my progress,” Grant said.
After missing much of the 2011 season with the injury, Grant spent most of the 2012 season just trying to get back to where he was before the accident.
By the end of 2012, Grant said he started to feel like his old self again.
“I first knew I was back at the end of the 2012 season. I was in third in a race and was hanging with all the fast guys.”
In 2013, the season started out with a second-place finish, signifying Grant was back. The talented trail navigator then hung around the top five in the points race until making his big push at the end.
Grant said he owes a lot of the credit for his success to his father, mother Sue Mitchell, sister Hailey Mitchell, H&G Motorsports teammates Beau Barron and David Haagsma and his sponsors.
“My family is always there for me,” Grant said, “especially my dad. He’s always there pushing me and making sure the bikes are ready to go, getting me where I need to go.”
As for Hailey, who’s Christmas gift was overtaken by her enthusiastic brother a decade ago, she said she is happy to see Grant succeed doing something he loves so much.
“It’s definitely a big part of our family,” Hailey said of quad racing. “It’s always been a part of our lives, so having him accomplish something this big is so incredible. He’s been one of those kids that has done so many races and was always on the podium, then he went up to pro-am, and it’s been such a challenge for him, and for him to accomplish this is so big.”
While the WORCS season is over and Grant has set his eyes on defending the title next year, he still has a points race to win in another circuit. Grant leads the point race in the Quad X Pro-Am Series sponsored by Yamaha. He will compete in one last race Nov. 9, and if Grant finishes in the top four, he will claim his second series title of 2013.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.