In his first year of professional racing, Grant Talkie of Sarasota dominates IMSA

SARASOTA — From the start, the clues were there for dad Jim and mom Kristina. Clues told them that their son Grant Talkie had a considerably heavier right foot than his left.

“I’ve always had a little need for speed,” said the former Cardinal Mooney Catholic School and Sarasota High School football player. “My mother is the exact opposite.”

There was the golf cart that Grant’s parents had to park permanently in the shed. “We had to get rid of it because it had to drive too fast,” Kristina said. When Grant was 6, they bought him a dirt bike. Wiser than his age, he learned to remove the regulator from the bike to increase his speed. “Flying over hills when he never should have been,” Kristina said.

Clues. So when Grant finally got his first car, a BMW, and Mom jumped in for a spin, she should have guessed “SLOW DOWN!” would be among her first words to her son. But now, years later, no one, including Kristina, is telling Grant Talkie to lighten the lead foot.

Not how the 27-year-old, in his first year on the pro circuit, turned heads last year when he won the Porsche Sprint Challenge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Of the 14 races Talkie entered under the authority of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), he won 12.

Grant Talkie, right, with his father, Jim Talkie, after winning last year at Watkins Glen International.  COURTESY PHOTO

“I’m not bragging about him, the kid just has a lot of talent,” Jim Talkie said. “He’s very, very good.”

There were three classes, platinum, gold and silver, and Grant Talkie won the gold medal. And because he dusted off the competition, Talkie was moved up to the Carrera class and will race next week at Sebring International Raceway in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America.

The 65 drivers will be driving a newly designed Porsche 991.1 Cup, with a top speed of around 165 mph. They will navigate a 3.8-mile-long Sebring track, with 17 turns. The car, Grant said, on the Sebring surface is about 5-8 mph faster than the one he drove last year winning the Porsche Sprint Challenge.

This race will be his first in the new race. The drivers this week at Sebring are training for next week’s qualifying. “I feel super comfortable in it,” Grant said. “Now it just takes pushing a little bit harder every day to make sure I keep beating those lap times and performing at my best.

The Porsche 991.1 Cup car that each competitor will drive cannot be purchased from any Porsche dealership. The car has a seat, net, roll bar and is designed to handle the twists and turns of Sebring, Watkins Glen International in New York, Road Atlanta or any of the other tracks on the IMSA circuit. Porsche Racing has made the car available for purchase only to drivers who have demonstrated success throughout the past racing season.

“The Cup car that we had, we couldn’t have had if Grant hadn’t done so well last year,” said Jim. While Porsche makes the car available for purchase, that’s all the company does. Riders must pick up the $325,000 tab, plus the cost of repairs. As the cars are battered, new brakes and tires are required after approximately 60 hours of driving.

In Grant’s case, his 69-year-old father, owner of James Talkie Custom Homes, paid for most of the costs, although several sponsors help cover some expenses. “I dipped into my retirement fund a bit,” he said. ” I must continue. I want to see him through this.

Owner of a Porsche 911 Turbo and also passionate about speed, Jim Talkie freely admits that he lives through his son, who loved monster trucks as a child and watched Formula 1 races on television but was not pushed into the sport by his father.

“He left dad in the dust,” said Jim, who bought his first Porsche and installed a roll bar. He then got a Porsche Cup from a man in England, thinking about his son’s racing future. “I had the Cup car,” he said, “and that’s when he started to take over.”

Grant Talkie hugs his dad after a win last season.  Winning 12 of 14 races, Talkie won the Porsche Sprint Challenge.  COURTESY PHOTO

With drivers competing in identical Porsches, success hinges on a driver’s ability and fearlessness on the track. In Grant’s case, his father said his “feel” of the car is what sets him apart from other drivers.

“Grant drives with his ass,” Jim said. “He doesn’t drive with his hands. He smells the car. He knows how to correct when he’s too fast in the corners, and that’s huge. Says Grant, “I like a firm seat that leads into the car because I can feel what the car is doing. If the car starts to slide, I can feel it with part of my butt.

The Joliet, Illinois native attended Tallahassee Community College with plans to join his brother, Trevor, at Florida State. But he met a man named Paul Johnson, and the two formed Professional Lift Solutions, a Sarasota-based company that installs elevators in residences.

“Their first year they made $600,000,” Jim said. “This is their fourth year, and last year they made $8 million. He has 17 employees and he’s made a wonderful business out of it. The company has operations in seven states; he recently opened an office in the Atlanta area.

Grant said he would stay in that class “to see where I can take him.”

After Sebring, it goes to Long Beach, California for the Long Beach Street Circuit, then to Monterey, California for the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, before going to Watkins Glen, New York for the Watkins Glen International.

And, yes, Grant Talkie will be in a hurry to achieve all three.

“To see different states and tracks. And to enjoy racing cars. It doesn’t get much better than that.