MIDWEST MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP UNFOLDS IN GRANT FASHION
Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Photos By: Rich Forman/USAC
Fairbury, Nebraska………Justin Grant busted his way into the win column Saturday night in the Inaugural Riverside Chevrolet “Midwest Midget Championship” presented by Westin Meats and Schmidt’s Sanitation at Jefferson County Speedway to become the eighth different winner in the first nine races of the USAC P1 Insurance National Midget season.
It’s admittedly been an up-and-down 2018 racing season for Justin Grant.
One year ago, the Ione, California native shot off the launching pad to become the first driver to win both the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car and USAC P1 Insurance National openers in a single season.
This year hasn’t exactly taken off like a rocket ship, save a Silver Crown victory at April’s “Sumar Classic” in Terre Haute, Ind. But, following an MSCS victory last Saturday in Putnamville, Ind. and now garnering his first USAC Midget win in nearly a calendar year, the tide may very well have turned for Grant to create his own new narrative and make this “The Summer of Justin.”
“This year’s been a bit of a struggle on kind of more than one front for me,” Grant acknowledged. “We picked up a win last week in a sprint car and, hopefully, it feels like things are starting to turn around and I can start putting these cars where they need to be, up front.”
Grant was a force right from the get-go, powering off the top in his Clauson-Marshall Racing – Matt Wood/NOS Energy Drink – Elk Grove Ford/Spike/Stanton SR-11 to the lead past pole sitter and teammate Tyler Courtney on the opening lap as Courtney, Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Logan Seavey tussled for the second spot in a three-wide manner just behind.
Just like the initial take off, Grant was smoking the field on each and every restart during the 40-lapper. The question that remained during the first half was whether anybody could overcome the deficit on a longer run, which never actually came to fruition.
Following a Jerry Coons, Jr. spin at the halfway point, Courtney was on Grant’s tail for the ensuing restart, and three laps later, was peeking a nose underneath Grant entering turn one. Grant countered that action with an opposite and equal reaction, scooting down to the bottom line as he sensed the track, and the pressure, change.
“It’s a little bit of both because you can tell when a lane’s starting to slow down,” Grant explained. “When I started out, I was on the top and I felt like (turns) three and four were starting to slow down. You start listening and looking for somebody coming on the other lane. I saw Sunshine slow on the bottom of one and two. When he pulled alongside me into one, I thought, ‘okay it’s time to abandon the top.’ You kind of feel you need to anyway, and you’re just waiting for confirmation to do it.”
As Grant began to add some groundage between he and Courtney, Seavey came right at Courtney and the two made contact at the start/finish line on the 24th lap. Both continued without much interruption of any kind despite the close call.
Following a Zane Hendricks flip on lap 27, Grant once again was a monster on the restart, distancing himself from Courtney and Seavey as he played the balancing act of the high line in turns one and two and the bottom in three and four.
On the 30th go-around, Seavey managed to slip by Courtney by the width of a cat whisker between he, Courtney and the outside concrete at the stripe. Once Seavey found second, the race was off to find first as he roped in Grant in a fraction of a moment, eating up Grant’s interval like a Number Muncher eats up an integer.
On the 34th lap, Seavey used a large run off four to set up slider on Grant. Seavey slid past Grant up to the turn two curb. Grant immediately ducked underneath as Seavey pulled the wheels up, losing ground to Grant who dove to the bottom in turn three with a two-car length advantage.
“I went to the bottom and that was pretty good for a while,” Grant said. “I started thinking, ‘hey that’s getting awfully slow in the center and the bottom down here,’ so I was thinking about moving and Seavey fired a slider at me into one. You know he can’t get that big of a run off the bottom behind you, so you knew you had to come from the top. We were able to cross him over and fire back to the top. Then, I think it was pretty smooth sailing from there.”
A yellow flag for an incident involving Hendricks and third-place Courtney with five laps remaining put a stoppage to the battle at the front just as the leaders were opening the door to lapped traffic.
While Grant was in the midst of dancing with the unknowns of lapped traffic, he was pursuing it admirably. Yet, with the caution lights reflecting off his visor, Grant now had the exodus of gridlock and a restart, which he had displayed his prowess on time and time again, awaiting. Not that the choice was his to make, but the preference for Grant in this situation was a toss-up.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted,” Grant admitted. “I felt like we were getting through lapped traffic really well. I felt like the guys had the car pretty good through the slick and I could really peel off the cushion and get by some of those lapped guys. I don’t know how well they were able to do that behind me, but I felt pretty confident in my car doing it. But you never know with lapped traffic. You’re relying on those guys to keep everything straight and pointed in the right direction. It’s a bit more comfortable to be out in the open water and be able to just run hard.”
The latter would be true once again, and Grant, for the umpteenth time, stomped the throttle and stomped the competition following the restart, to swat away any possible challenge that Seavey might have in store. Grant cruised the top down the stretch to a half-second victory, the third of his USAC National Midget career, over Seavey, K. Thomas, Tanner Carrick and Brady Bacon.
“These midget races are tough, and these midget racers are really tough,” Grant praised. “Late race restarts can cause some havoc and you got to make sure and nail them. We got one there at the end and we were going to be out of lapped traffic ’til the end. I had to nail the restart and get out in front of those guys because you can pretty easily fade back to fifth or sixth in a lap or two if you catch a slider on a restart. I knew I had to get off good enough to be able to clear anything that anybody threw at me. I was pretty confident once we cleared turn two that I would be able to stay out front. The car was really good, and I was confident in that.”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Jefferson County Speedway included Brady Bacon (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Chad Boat (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner), Maria Cofer (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner) and Brayton Lynch (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 14, 2018 – Jefferson County Speedway – Fairbury, Nebraska – Inaugural Riverside Chevrolet “Midwest Midget Championship” presented by Westin Packaged Meats and Schmidt’s Sanitation
QUALIFYING: 1. Logan Seavey, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-10.742 (New Track Record); 2. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-10.747; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 63, Dooling-10.781; 4. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-10.818; 5. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-10.893; 6. Justin Grant, 17BC, Clauson/Marshall/Wood-10.908; 7. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-10.959; 8. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-10.968; 9. Jason McDougal, 15, Petry/Goff-10.976; 10. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-11.008; 11. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-11.053; 12. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-11.063; 13. Zane Hendricks, 27z, Tucker/Boat-11.091; 14. Sam Johnson, 72, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.103; 15. Kyle Craker, 76E, FMR-11.266; 16. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.320; 17. Maria Cofer, 35, Petry/Goff-11.358; 18. Lance Bennett, 10, Bennett-11.368; 19. Brett Becker, 2B, Becker-11.817; 20. Dustin Weland, 88w, Weland-11.837; 21. Glenn Waterland, 11c, Waterland-11.934; 22. Blaze Bennett, 10B, Bennett-12.067; 23. Curtis Spicer, 4, Spicer-12.715; 24. Olivia Bennett, 77, Bennett-13.635; 25. Dave Darland, 85, Central-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Bacon, 2. Courtney, 3. Seavey, 4. Bodine, 5. Hendricks, 6. B. Bennett, 7. Becker, 8. Coons, 9. Darland. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Boat, 2. T. Thomas, 3. Bayston, 4. Carrick, 5. Johnson, 6. Weland, 7. Spicer, 8. Cofer. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. K. Thomas, 2. Grant, 3. McDougal, 4. Lynch, 5. Craker, 6. L. Bennett, 7. Waterland, 8. O. Bennett. NT
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer) 1. Cofer, 2. Coons, 3. Weland, 4. L. Bennett, 5. Spicer, 6. B. Bennett, 7. Waterland, 8. Darland, 9. Becker. 1:59.34 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (2), 2. Logan Seavey (6), 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4), 4. Tanner Carrick (3), 5. Brady Bacon (10), 6. Jerry Coons, Jr. (7), 7. Jason McDougal (9), 8. Tyler Thomas (11), 9. Spencer Bayston (5), 10. Kyle Craker (15), 11. Cole Bodine (16), 12. Chad Boat (8), 13. Brayton Lynch (12), 14. Sam Johnson (14), 15. Tyler Courtney (1), 16. Maria Cofer (17), 17. Dustin Weland (19), 18. Glenn Waterland (20), 19. Lance Bennett (18), 20. Zane Hendricks (13), 21. Blaze Bennett (21), 22. Curtis Spicer (22). NT
**Hendricks flipped on lap 27 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Grant.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brady Bacon (10th to 5th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Brayton Lynch
NEW USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Seavey-616, 2-Boat-542, 3-K. Thomas-541, 4-Bayston-539, 5-Grant-538, 6-Bacon-509, 7-Courtney-505, 8-Carrick-457, 9-Coons-423, 10-Ryan Robinson-398.
NEXT USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 15 – Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex – Sweet Springs, Missouri – “John Hinck Championship”