A $50 1940 Ford coupe started Jim Gresham's obsession with racing fifty years ago and the Coupe was the first car Gresham ever owned. Since those humble beginnings, Gresham has seen his fleet swell to approximately 20 cars, with no signs of shrinking.
Gresham, the founder and chairman of Gresham and Associates Insurance Brokers, has been in love with racing since he was 14-years-old.
"I bought that coupe and rebuilt it myself," the 64-year-old Gresham said. "I used any bolt and part that I could afford or borrow, and I turned that thing into a drag car. Street racing was real big when I bought it and that is what I built that car for."
Not long after graduating from the '40 Ford, Gresham moved to an altered wheelbase drag car featuring a supercharged Hemi engine under the hood.
"My biggest accomplishment racing that altered car was probably winning the Winter Nationals on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway," Gresham recalled. "They used to run the Winter Nationals during Speed Weeks in February and we won it in 1963."
Gresham had retired his drag slicks for many years until his grandsons expressed an interest in racing.
"About six years ago, we took our grandkids out to Thursday Thunder and I hoped seeing the Bandolero and Legends cars racing around would spark an interest in them, and luckily it did," Gresham said smiling.
Since attending their first Thursday Thunder, Atlanta Motor Speedway's weekly Legends racing series, Gresham's racing operation has grown exponentially.
"Now, we have Bandoleros, Legends cars, Thunder Roadsters and Late Model stock cars," Gresham said. "We have about 20 cars in all."
Gresham is grooming his grandsons to take their racing careers as far they would like.
"It is a little too early to tell if Charlie, my youngest grandson, is going to want to make a career out of racing," Gresham said. "But I bet if you asked my oldest grandson Max, he'd tell you this is what he wants to do long-term."
To date, Jim Gresham has earned three wins this Thursday Thunder season and sits atop the points standings in the John Deere Roadsters division.
Gresham's 13-year-old grandson, Max, has won a feature race in the back Yard Burgers Semi-Pro division and has a chance at winning the points championship.
"Max has always had a spark of fearlessness in him, and he has excellent reflexes and vision," Gresham commented. "If you combine those three things, you are probably going to have a great racecar driver."
Gresham has no intentions of taking a backseat to his grandchildren's racing careers yet.
"Eventually I could see myself being a part-owner in one of the elite NASCAR series teams and have my grandsons drive for me," Gresham said. "The learning curve is just too steep to jump in by yourself and be competitive, but I would love to be a partial owner with someone like Richard Childress."
For now however, Gresham enjoys racing his black Thunder Roadster and watching his grandchildren race every Thursday night at AMS.
"You'll never get racing out of my system," Gresham said smiling. "I race for one thing and one thing only; to win."
Fans can watch Gresham and his grandchildren every Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway this summer through August 3. Tickets for Thursday Thunder, Atlanta Motor Speedway's weekly Legends racing series, are available at Gate 13 (frontstretch Champions Grandstand) on event nights. Parking is free. Spectator gates open at 6 p.m. with preliminary action beginning immediately. Feature racing begins at 7 p.m. and concludes by 10:30 p.m.