Obama grants former NASCAR driver from Hickory shorter sentence

HICKORY, N.C. — President Barack Obama has commuted or pardoned more criminal sentences than any other president in history.

Tuesday he commuted the sentences of nearly 1,400 criminals, granted more than 200 pardons and Thursday he'll announce more.

Former NASCAR driver and Hickory native Kenny Gragg was one of the convicts that learned his sentence would be slashed in half.

Gragg drove in the Busch series and when he got out of racing is when his life spiraled out of control, his family said.

Gragg’s son, Evan Gragg, shared photos from his father's racing career in the early 1990s where he competed against the likes of Dale Earnhardt and was a teammate of Dale Jarrett.

"He was running up there with the big names. It was just crazy how things change," Evan said.

"He could set up a race car like no other. He could really race," Gragg’s ex-wife, Donna Gragg, said.

Evan said he cherishes the photos of his father teaching him to drive as a young boy the most. That close relationship became strained as Gragg began both using and selling drugs, ending with a 25-year federal sentence when he was busted for selling meth after years of using cocaine.

"He was an addict. He lost his house, his cars, his business, everything -- his family, his marriage. All over a drug," Evan said.

It was 12 years ago when Gragg began serving his lengthy sentence, but Wednesday night, he, along with dozens of other federal inmates, got a second chance.

Obama commuted his sentence, shaving off more than eight years of time.

Gragg's sister got word late Tuesday when she got a call from her brother.

"I said, 'Is it true?' and he said, 'Yes it is," Cheryl Gragg said.

Gragg's family is thankful for Obama's decision to help Kenny and others. They believe the federal sentences at the time were too harsh for the crime.

"A lot of these people don't need 25 years. That is taking someone's life. You can murder someone and get eight to ten years," Evan said.

"What do you think about second chances? I think everyone deserves one. We all make mistakes. I know I do," Cheryl said.

Gragg will still have to serve two more years of prison time before actually getting out, and must also complete a drug rehab program before his release.

Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com: