Aussie Dave living the dream

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Becoming a professional driver of Top Fuel cars in the USA is a dream nearly every drag racer would have. For one Australian that dream has been lived out over two decades.


David Grubnic left Brisbane with just a suitcase and the idea that he wanted to be involved in drag racing. Some fortunate timing and plenty of hard work gave him opportunities he was able to seize.

“There is nothing in motorsport that captures a person like these nitro engines, back as a 13 year old kid I knew I had to be involved,” he said. “I worked in the motor industry as a field manager for Ford and I had the opportunity to come to the States and meet up with some teams.

“Computers were just starting to become prevalent as data recorders and I had a computer background, so that’s what got me started.”

Grubnic said the the early years were very difficult, working his way up through the ranks and earning respect in the big dollar American drag racing industry.

“You have to go through those troughs,” he said. “But I’ve been very fortunate over the years to drive for some great owners. When Connie Kalitta expanded his team he grabbed me to drive and I have been here ever since.”

The inclusion in Kalitta Motorsport was Grubnic’s big break, finally giving him a car that was competitive against the big dogs and allowing him to access their extensive experience in racing nitro machines.

Being able to apply skills across a wide range of areas in a team, from tuning to driving to solving IT problems, has been of great benefit to the driver known in the US as “Aussie Dave”.

“In the early part I had to do it all, the teams I drove for did the best they could with the resources they had available; we couldn’t afford high dollar crew chiefs and you had to learn to be a jack of all trades,” he said. “I’ve always been a hands on type driver. I still do all the IT stuff for this team and with Connie he has got the experience from doing this for 50 years and then I supply the modern technology.”

Grubnic acknowledged that fewer drivers are getting their hands dirty now, being hired solely for their skills at the wheel and corporate abilities.

“They get specific drivers and that’s what they do. I was probably one of the last of that era where you tune and drive the car,” he said. “To drive and survive out here you had to know how to do it all. It’s a good trait to have because my next move is to slide into the crew chief role. I still enjoy driving the car and as long as Connie is racing and I can keep driving for him I will be happy.”

Grubnic has won two NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) events, including in Topeka, Kansas earlier this year. But he still rates coming to Australia to drive several years ago as one of his career highlights.

“It is one of the things I wanted to do and when we were promoting Kalitta Motorsports we had to put on a good show,” he said. “We knew the set up of the car and we brought all our gear and all our people. We wanted a known product so that we could go down there without having to mess around.

“I think we ran a 4.61sec and it was one of those runs of the night that everyone goes home talking about. It was a highlight for sure.”


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