Alzheimer's hit home for race car driver and #ENDALZ Athlete Josh Pierson at a young age. His paternal grandfather was diagnosed with the disease when he was 8 years old. “He has always been really helpful throughout my life,” Josh shares. “He taught me how to fish when I was little, and how to play pool. He has been an incredibly impactful figure who has supported me through everything. And now I get to support him.”
Josh’s love of racing began in karting, when he turned his first lap at just 2 years old. Now 16, racing has taken him all over the world. Many of these tracks are ones he grew up watching on TV. “I watched all the races from Belgium to Fiji and grew up watching Formula 1. To drive on those tracks is amazing.” At 13, Josh started driving open-wheel cars. At 14, he was the youngest driver on the grid in USF2000 in the Road to Indy Series. Now 16, Josh is racing LMP2 in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and the World Endurance Championship with United Autosports.
A lover of motorsports, Josh’s grandpa is one of his biggest fans. When asked about favorite memories, Josh remembers times around Thanksgiving the most. “Playing pool during the holidays is one of my more vivid memories. Grandpa got me a pool cue one Christmas, and it was tradition for us to play together.” His grandpa also loved fishing. “Any time I fish, I think about him. He has always loved the outdoors.” Most importantly, Josh holds close the qualities that make his grandpa who he is. “He spent his whole life being so empathetic, and putting others before himself. He was a woodworker, and a hard worker, funny, and fun to be around…a kind, extraordinary man.”
Today, Josh’s grandpa is living in a care home. “My grandma took care of him for a long time, and we helped move him into his current memory care home so he can have around-the-clock, dedicated care,” Josh shares. “Caring for someone at home is so difficult, and so many families take this on,” he adds. “It takes an abundance of patience. Grandma wouldn’t be able to help him up if he fell, and she doesn’t have the resources of a medical team. Visiting my grandpa and seeing he is doing well in memory care means so much. It’s also beneficial for Grandpa to be around other people. He sees people every day and has positive social interaction. Not everyone has access to this type of care, so we are lucky.”
As a dedicated racer, Josh knows the importance of being prepared. He works on strength and conditioning, and performs drills to improve eye-hand coordination and reaction time. As he reflects on the last few years, he knows that families need to be prepared for what is coming after an Alzheimer's diagnosis, and that there is help. “You aren’t alone, in any sense of the word,” he says. “There are so many people struggling with this disease, whether they are the brave person battling it, or their loved ones.” And he has hope for the future. “I know that others facing Alzheimer’s don’t want to see future generations of people they love being affected, so by fighting together, and supporting Alzheimer’s awareness and research, I know we can make this a reality.”
Josh continues to learn about the disease and learn from his grandpa. “I have found what my grandpa remembers, versus what he doesn’t, very interesting,” he shares. “Sometimes he will bring up memories from his past, from when he was around my age, a young adult. He shares these stories like they had just happened. I am just happy to talk to him and to listen.”
When asked about using racing to help create Alzheimer’s awareness, Josh describes it as “an amazing feeling.” “The motorsports world is a community of people who care and who support one another. On and off the track, I can bring new eyes to the Alzheimer’s cause. I hope I can use my sport and voice to shed light on the disease, and that anyone struggling can find inspiration. I am inspired by all those who fight to end Alzheimer’s to help those we love living with the disease.”
Blog Update: In July 2022, Josh's beloved grandfather lost his brave battle with Alzheimer's disease. Josh continues to fight to end Alzheimer's in honor of his grandpa and in support of all families facing this disease.
About: Josh Pierson is determined to be one of the best open-wheel and sports car drivers in the world. In 2022, Josh will race LMP2 with United Autosports in the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He will also race LMP2 with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Learn more and follow Josh on Instagram.
*Photo of Josh courtesy Carly Carpenter Photography