A natural talent behind the wheel, Hannah Grisham has been racing competitively since she got her first go-kart at the age of 6. Now the 19-year-old is taking on her biggest challenge yet — racing for a cure in a City of Hope-sponsored custom Mazda Miata.
Hannah began her association with the cancer center the weekend of May 18 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, sporting the City of Hope logo on her car while driving in the Teen Mazda Challenge series. It’s a relationship that she hopes will boost awareness and raise funds in the fight against cancer.
“I’m so excited to be able to have such a great organization like City of Hope on my car,” she said. “Everything they do is amazing! It’s also going to be great to be at my home track and hopefully spread awareness of what City of Hope does and who they are. I’m especially interested in helping raise funding and awareness for childhood cancers because it seems so underrepresented.”
Race for the Cure
Hannah and her family, who are all closely involved in her racing career, hope to leverage her visibility as a top driver in her class to raise money for City of Hope directly through Hannah’s “Race for the Cure” website.
She would also like to bring some excitement and smiles to kids who may never get to do what she’s doing on the track. “That’s why I approached City of Hope with the idea for the sponsorship. We live pretty close, about 15-20 minutes away, and I know all about the great work they do.”
It's the latest step in her journey, one that took root when the Glendora, California, resident was only 3. That’s when her father bought her a motorized buggy to drive. Hannah took to it immediately, and soon enough she began racing go-karts.
“My dad raced motorcycles all his life, so he wanted me to get into some type of racing,” she said. “He bought me a little yellow buggy for Christmas. I loved that thing so much. My dad said he saw the ‘light in my eyes’ when I drove it.”
Driving is clearly in her blood, and she hasn’t taken her foot off the gas since.
Hannah showed an early competitive streak, a special knack for coming from far back in the pack to steal victories at the last minute — a talent that earned her the nickname “The Closer.” She loves the challenge and finds peace amid the speed and chaos on the track.
“I know that racing seems chaotic, but when I’m driving, my mind kind of goes blank and I go into a zone,” she said. “I get anxious before the race, but once it starts, my body just takes over. In a way it’s really calming and therapeutic.”
Today Hannah is driving a souped-up Mazda Miata built by Morningstar Racing, competing against some of the top competitors in her age group and keeping her eyes focused squarely on the ultimate prize.
Hannah finished among the top four finalists in the national 2018 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout, and this year her goal is to win it all. The prize at stake is a scholarship to participate in the elite Global MX-5 Cup series, a prestigious step forward sanctioned by IndyCar.
“Getting into the MX-5 Cup and winning a scholarship would be great, because racing isn’t cheap,” she said. “Last year was a great learning experience, finishing top four in the Road to 24. But this year I want to advance to the next level.”
Following her second-place finish in the May 18 race weekend in Fontana, Hannah currently ranks second overall in the SoCal division of the Teen Mazda Challenge.
The Road Ahead
Hannah hopes to have a long career in front of her — and a long association carrying the City of Hope banner. Eventually she’d like to graduate to Formula One or sports cars, but she also plans to get involved on the business side, a path she’s pursing at San Diego State, where she recently finished her freshman year.
“I’m a business finance major,” she said. “That has always interested me, and I want to be in control of the business side of my career. I want to be able to understand all aspects of business and how that applies to racing. It’s a win-win!”
Her weekend in Fontana is just another step forward for Hannah. Expect to see Hannah, and the cancer center’s logo, in many winner’s circles in the months and years to come.
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