Bobcat Faces: Warren Grannis

Grannis drives racing dream
to Bonneville Speed Flats

By Catherine Harper

For an auto racing fan, what could be more thrilling than being a spectator at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, one of the fastest speedways on earth? The answer: being a driver there. For Warren Grannis, a Texas State graduate student, his lifelong dream of racing is rapidly becoming a reality as he prepares for the Bonneville World of Speed Race on Sept. 16-17, 2011.

Grannis—a database manager, husband and father of three—graduated from Texas State in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in history and expects to complete his master’s in geography in December. With plans to open his own geography firm in 2-5 years, Grannis is unsure about how to fit his dream of racing into a career; however, family tradition drives it as a priority in his life.

“My family has always been Volkswagen fans, race fans, automotive enthusiasts in general,” Grannis says. “Racing is a natural extension of that. I’ve been going to all kinds of races for as long as I can remember. Races are harder to find in this area, so I guess you could say I’m acting out on some bottled up urges to get some speed out of my system.”

Grannis’ childhood—spent in the California Gold Country around the foothills of the Sierra Nevada—was filled with watching relatives fix Volkswagens near the coast and taking family road trips through the Salt Flats, stopping at the rest area near the Bonneville Speedway. He says these childhood experiences instilled in him the lifelong dream of racing a Volkswagen at the Bonneville Speedway.

“I’ve been around VWs for as long as I can remember,” Grannis says. “Some of my first memories are going down to the drag strip as a toddler in California, watching relatives race or work on racers as a part of a crew.”

As a teenager, Grannis often helped his father, a racer himself, build and repair Volkswagens. After moving to Texas 11 years ago, Grannis developed his passion for big races such as NASCAR and Formula 1.

“I love it all: NASCAR, Formula 1, the motorcycles (especially the Isle of Man TT), the drags…it was a big part of my childhood, and I guess to an extent some of the California culture,” Grannis says. “In Texas everyone’s more of a NASCAR fan. In Cali, it seems to be more about ‘How fast can I make this car go?'”

While Grannis’ father has competed at Bonneville seven times, the upcoming race will be Grannis’ first at the Bonneville World of Speed. He will be racing a 1968 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, built by his father, who will also serve as his pit crew chief. Grannis says participating in this race is as much about their teamwork as it is about competing. It’s his childhood dream realized.

“Bonneville is legendary,” Grannis says. “The fastest land-based vehicles in the world have set records there. I might not ever go 500+ mph, but it’s a fun fantasy to imagine. It’s the ultimate form of playing pretend, I guess, to strap yourself into a real car that’s specifically been designed to go as fast as it possibly can, and shoot down that same stretch of salt some of the biggest legends in speed have. It doesn’t get any more awesome than that.”

Grannis says his performance this year will determine his participation in next year’s competition. Although he’s facing a field of more than 100 competitors, he’s hoping to capture the speed record for his vehicle-type.

“If I do,” he says, “I’ll need to come back next year and be sure to defend it, at a minimum. Maybe even post a better time? I’d like to set a high bar for others and keep it up out of reach for them. That being said, whether or not I do [return] really depends on what life brings my way.”

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