Top of the Crop: Grant Ends 6-Month USAC Midget Drought at Harvest Cup
Josh James Artwork Photo
TOP OF THE CROP:GRANT ENDS 6-MONTH USAC MIDGET DROUGHTAT HARVEST CUP
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Haubstadt, Indiana (October 8, 2022)………Justin Grant had waited long enough.
The same line can be used to describe his entire USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season in addition to Saturday night’s Harvest Cup feature at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
After becoming the first driver in USAC National Midget history to win the first three feature events to start a season, Grant endured a lengthy six-month wait that encompassed a 21-race winless drought between April and October.
In a microcosm of his effort to halt his winning withdrawals, the Ione, Calif. native raced from his seventh starting position to the front with six laps remaining, dialing up a successful slide job on the driver who’s been practically unstoppable all summer long – Buddy Kofoid.
Grant tracked him down, overtook him, then was forced to fend off a bevy of haymakers from the reigning series champ and current point leader throughout the final circuits, but was able to surge back ahead and prevail once more for the fourth time this season in his RMS Racing/NOS Energy Drink – EnviroFab – Response Management Services/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
For Grant, this one was more than “a long time coming.”
“I have been absolutely terrible in a midget for the last seven months,” Grant admitted. “It feels really, really good to get a win and it feels really, really good to beat Buddy and the 67. I like Buddy really well, so I don’t mean anything bad by that, but he’s just been really good and it’s an accomplishment to beat him. I’m proud we were able to do that tonight.”
In turn, Grant provided RMS Racing with its third consecutive Harvest Cup victory after Thomas Meseraull scored the past two in 2020 and 2021.
By doing so, Grant earned his 13th career USAC National Midget feature victory, which moved him past series champions Danny Caruthers, Russ Gamester and Jeff Gordon, plus Gene Force, Bobby Grim and Ron Shuman, on the all-time series win list. Grant is now equaled for 55th all-time in series wins with Steve Knepper, Don Meacham, Ryan Newman and 1992-93 series titlist, Stevie Reeves.
And with all that, Grant’s race on Saturday night nearly came to a crashing halt practically before it began. While pole sitter Jacob Denney was the beacon up front, Grant (7th) and Zach Daum (8th) connected in turn three. As a result, Grant’s right side nerf bar entrapped Daum’s left front wheel. Both remained hooked together from turn three until the exit of turn four when the two finally parted ways. The newly freed Daum was then clipped by Daison Pursley as he passed by on the outside, sending Daum into a 180-degree spin and to a stop.
Daum restarted from the tail due to the incident, but Grant retained his position as he kept matriculating around the quarter-mile dirt oval and soon became a factor at the top of the tote board. He received some assistance in his pursuit on the ensuing restart when Meseraull (4th) and Cannon McIntosh (5th) entangled, sending both to a stop, which also collected Pursley (6th) and Jason McDougal (8th), forcing all to a stop and to the tail of the field for the restart.
Thereafter, it became a patented Tri-State Speedway midget slider fest at the top of the field as Denney and Kofoid unofficially swapped the lead 13 times in a five-lap span between laps seven and 11 as each driver traded haymaker after haymaker on each end of the racetrack.
Kofoid assumed the number one position by roughly a foot or so over Denney as they crossed the stripe on the 11th lap. Moments later, over in turn three, Taylor Reimer (8th), Mitchel Moles (10th) and Kyle Cummins (15th) all became snarled in a jumble and stopped to bring out the yellow, which positioned Kofoid as the leader coming back to the lap 12 restart.
The Kofoid/Denney duel that raged at the forefront had been to the benefit of third-place Grant as he was able to turn uncontested laps while the front two swapped endless barbs, which lent a helpful hand to Grant as he worked to find the sweet spot on the surface and began to reel his way into contention.
“I was really just trying to work my lines to figure out what was going to work for this car tonight,” Grant relayed. “Tri-State is so weird. You can be in one spot and be terrible, then you move a foot and you’re really good. I was spending a lot of that time just trying to figure out where I was good. Those guys were racing each other pretty hard, and that kept them close to me, which was fortunate for me at that time.”
Kofoid drove away once the green flag dropped and ballooned his advantage to the tune of 1.9 seconds. Meanwhile, Grant slid Denney for the second spot on the 15th lap and began to carve into Kofoid’s lead, snipping it in half down to less than a second.
Simultaneously, Meseraull was in the midst of a miraculous drive from the tail. After restarting 19th on lap six, he reemerged in the top-five by the 16th lap, then into the fourth position by lap 19 after gliding past Brenham Crouch for the spot.
With six to go, the contest became a renewal of June’s Indiana Midget Week face-off at Tri-State between Kofoid and Grant, which experienced its share of fireworks and resulted in Grant getting upside down while the two battled for position up front late in the feature four months earlier.
Grant ably slid Kofoid for the race lead in turn one on lap 25. However, as expected, Kofoid crossed over and reassumed his position when he chased Grant back down in turn three. Grant delivered a crossover of his own and ripped the lead away once more off the turn four exit to rise ahead of Kofoid by a little over a car length at the line.
You could throw the top-four under a proverbial blanket at that point as Meseraull slipped past Denney for third coming off turn four to the line on lap 27. However, Denney’s night came to a crashing halt a half lap later when the fourth-place driver became intertwined in a turn four kerfuffle which also collected Crouch (5th) and McIntosh (8th), sending all to a stop.
With two laps remaining, it was go-time for Kofoid who drag raced Grant down the back straightway into turn three and drifted back into the lead briefly. Grant got on the binders, cranked the steering wheel left and drove down the banking to zip back past, then shot to the outside on the front straight to yank Kofoid’s line away from him under the waving white flag.
Kofoid wound it up on the top side in turns one and two for the last time and caught Grant midway down the back straight. The two driver’s bumpers collided as Kofoid’s chrome horn met face-to-face with Grant’s rear bumper just before the two entered turn three. Grant took away Kofoid’s slider line and came off four with victory in hand, tripping the loop on the last go-around by a 0.227 margin over Kofoid to take the victory.
“Buddy’s got a few tricks, but I’m pretty old; I’ve got a lot of them,” Grant quipped. “So, I knew what was coming down the back stretch and got on the brakes and crossed him over then got back up to speed. I’ve been doing this a long time, so we’ve got a few tricks of our own.”
Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) led a race-high 15 laps and traded a boatload of sliders for the lead with Denney and then Grant in the final laps. His second place run is his second of the year at Tri-State after scoring a similar runner-up result this past June during Indiana Midget Week. Overall, it’s Kofoid’s 17th top-three finish in 24 series starts this season in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Meseraull, Daum and McDougal collected third, fourth and fifth place finishes, which came about after all three restarted at the back of the pack following early race incidents. Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) went through the wringer, restarting 19th before charging all the way back to a 3rd place result in his RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Response Management Services – Engler Machine/Spike/Speedway Toyota. After winning Harvest Cup in 2020-21, he’s now finished on the podium in each of his last five USAC National Midget feature starts at Tri-State.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 8, 2022 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Harvest Cup
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Jason McDougal, 08w, Dave Mac Dalby-13.621; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-13.630; 3. Zach Daum, 9m, Bundy Built-13.630; 4. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.711; 5. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.740; 6. Jacob Denney, 61, Mounce/Stout-13.799; 7. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-13.805; 8. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-13.810; 9. Daison Pursley, 71p, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.859; 10. Adam Taylor, 7T, ATM-13.864; 11. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.885; 12. Mitchel Moles, 89, CBI-13.900; 13. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.903; 14. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.923; 15. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-13.936; 16. Dominic Gorden, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.988; 17. Chase McDermand, 86, CBI-14.020; 18. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-14.022; 19. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Styres-14.042; 20. Hayden Reinbold, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-14.199; 21. Jeff Schindler, 8x, Schindler-14.457; 22. Kyle Beilman, 31B, Beilman-14.589; 23. Maria Cofer, 57, Abacus-14.709; 24. Mark McMahill, 91, Harris-14.873; 25. Talin Turner, 15, Mounce/Stout-15.039; 26. Aaron Sanders, 1s, Sanders-15.708; 27. Blake Sholders, 11, Martin-19.044.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Bryant Wiedeman, 3. Jason McDougal, 4. Dominic Gorden, 5. Buddy Kofoid, 6. Kyle Cummins, 7. Adam Taylor, 8. Talin Turner, 9. Kyle Beilman. 2:19.57
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Ethan Mitchell, 3. Taylor Reimer, 4. Brenham Crouch, 5. Kaylee Bryson, 6. Chase McDermand, 7. Hayden Reinbold, 8. Maria Cofer, 9. Aaron Sanders. 2:20.26
PIT STOP USA/ROD END SUPPLY THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Jacob Denney, 5. Mitchel Moles, 6. Chance Crum, 7. Jeff Schindler, 8. Mark McMahill, 9. Blake Sholders. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase McDermand, 2. Adam Taylor, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. Chance Crum, 5. Hayden Reinbold, 6. Maria Cofer, 7. Talin Turner, 8. Kyle Beilman, 9. Jeff Schindler, 10. Mark McMahill, 11. Blake Sholders. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (7), 2. Buddy Kofoid (3), 3. Thomas Meseraull (5), 4. Zach Daum (4), 5. Jason McDougal (6), 6. Kaylee Bryson (12), 7. Dominic Gorden (16), 8. Bryant Wiedeman (14), 9. Ethan Mitchell (9), 10. Kyle Cummins (19), 11. Chase McDermand (17), 12. Mitchel Moles (13), 13. Daison Pursley (10), 14. Hayden Reinbold (20), 15. Brenham Crouch (2), 16. Talin Turner (22), 17. Taylor Reimer (15), 18. Chance Crum (18), 19. Maria Cofer (21), 20. Jacob Denney (1), 21. Cannon McIntosh (8), 22. Adam Taylor (11). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Jacob Denney, Lap 8 Buddy Kofoid, Laps 9-10 Jacob Denney, Laps 11-24 Buddy Kofoid, Laps 25-30 Justin Grant.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-1719, 2-Justin Grant-1525, 3-Thomas Meseraull-1357, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-1346, 5-Mitchel Moles-1328, 6-Cannon McIntosh-1301, 7-Kaylee Bryson-1259, 8-Jacob Denney-1045, 9-Zach Daum-1031, 10-Taylor Reimer-1025.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-172, 2-Thomas Meseraull-131, 3-Brady Bacon-125, 4-Robert Ballou-107, 5-Kaylee Bryson-103, 6-Buddy Kofoid-100, 7-Kyle Cummins-94, 8-Logan Seavey-93, 9-Cannon McIntosh-81, 10-Matt Westfall-78.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 15, 2022 – Bakersfield Speedway – Bakersfield, California – 1/3-Mile Dirt Track – November Classic
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Thomas Meseraull (13.435)
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Jason McDougal (13.621)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Justin Grant
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Thomas Meseraull
Pit Stop USA / Rod End Supply Third Heat Winner: Cannon McIntosh
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Chase McDermand
Feature Hard Charger: Dominic Gorden (16th to 7th)