Kokomo, Indiana (July 24, 2021)………Justin Grant had never experienced a victory quite like he did Saturday night at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway.
Just two nights after scoring a 100-lap, long distance USAC Silver Crown race, the Ione, California native reigned triumphant in one of the shortest feature events in the 66-year history of USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship racing.
Under threatening skies that hovered over the top of Kokomo’s quarter-mile dirt oval, Grant raced to the lead on the ninth lap past Kevin Thomas Jr., then remained at the head of the field when the skies let loose, halting the race with 18 of 30 laps complete.
A feature event is considered complete when more than half of the scheduled laps are completed. When it became apparent that the rain was going to make the resumption of the event an impossibility, Grant was declared the winner in his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – MPV Express – TOPP Industries/Maxim/Kistler Chevy.
With the falling precipitation causing the mass exodus from both the capacity-filled grandstands and pit area, the traditional victory lane celebration and the resulting jubilation was a little more muted than usual.
Instead, the hoopla was traded in for a quick exit from the pit area followed by a post-race meal at a nearby Rally’s. Grant has no qualms with that. A win is a win no matter how you slice it, and Grant certainly earned this one before the proverbial buzzer sounded.
“I’ll take them anyway I can get them,” Grant declared. “This one paid more per lap than anyone I’ve ever won!”
The 18-lap, rain-shortened feature has much historical significance within the USAC record books with it being the first-ever rain-shortened Indiana Sprint Week main event in the series’ 34-year history.
Saturday’s truncated race placed it tied for the third-shortest completed feature race in USAC Sprint Car history. Doug Wolfgang won both ends of twin 15-lappers at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. during the 1991 season. Jim McWithey won an 18-lap USAC Midwest Sprint Car race, rain-shortened from 30 circuits, at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 1959.
The last completed, rain-shortened USAC National Sprint Car feature of any kind prior to Saturday came at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in 2006, a race won by Darren Hagen with 35 of 40 laps in the books when it was called.
While mother nature was on the forefront of many minds as the feature pushed away on Saturday night beneath and beside lightning-filled skies, Grant admitted that the weather situation certainly was, at least, in the back of his mind while the task at hand of racing taking precedence and being first and foremost on the brain.
But in USAC National Sprint Car competition, it’s always imperative to reach the front as soon as you possibly can, but with a short distance ahead, and the likes of Kevin Thomas Jr. and C.J. Leary ahead of yourself on the front row, whether there’s weather or no weather, it’s a chore.
From the third starting position, Grant quickly slotted into second along the bottom of turns one and two on the opening lap, underneath, while Thomas Jr. spurted away topside to lead the opening stages.
The only stoppage of the feature came on the sixth lap when 19th running Brandon Mattox flipped nose-and-tail down the front straightaway, separating the fuel tank from the racecar as the Terre Haute, Ind. driver landed upside down straddling the start/finish line. When the car was tipped back over onto its four wheels, a brief oil fire broke out on the right side headers but was quickly extinguished.
When racing resumed with the lap seven restart, Grant put a move on Thomas Jr., diving underneath in turn one and sliding past for the race lead, only to be counteracted by Thomas Jr.’s reemergence to the front, back under in turns three and four. Entering turn one on lap eight, Thomas Jr. closed the door on Grant, taking away his line and his run on the top side of the first turn.
The following lap, which ultimately turned out to be the midway point of the feature – lap nine – saw Grant rear back his slingshot and fire a shot across the bow of Thomas Jr. in turn one. Once again, Thomas Jr. ripped right past Grant on the back straightway on the bottom entering turn three. However, Grant was prepared, and instantly turned back down between turns three and four, slipping past Thomas Jr. for good.
“I remember being a really long way back going into one,” Grant recalled of the initial pass for the lead. “(Thomas Jr.) went to slide me back into three, and I let him go, then slid him as he was sliding me and kind of got him corner pocketed off four where he had to let us go. I felt like we were in pretty good shape once we got to the front.”
After spending his time prior to the red flag searching every which-a-way, Grant found his groove just prior to the early race halt. He put his discovery into full execution directly afterward.
“I was pretty good in three and four,” Grant said. “We were both pretty much just ripping the top in three and four and I was kind of moving around in one and two trying to find something that worked for me. I kind of found it right before the red. Luckily, after the red, I was able find that line where I could slide myself and catch the cushion in two. I felt pretty confident with that and stuck with that the entire race.”
When raindrops kept falling on the heads of the field at lap 18, and Grant holding an eight-car-length lead over new second-place runner Brady Bacon, the red flag was displayed for extensive moisture. Several moments later, when water began to pool inside the perimeter of the racetrack, the plug was pulled, and the event was officially complete with Grant the winner for the fourth time overall in his Indiana Sprint Week career, and first time in the ISW series at Kokomo.
Grant’s 25th career USAC National Sprint Car feature win moved him into 24th on the all-time list alongside past series champions Steve Butler, Jay Drake and Parnelli Jones.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) earned his 41st career USAC National Sprint Car fast qualifying time, which ranks fourth on the all-time series list. His 2nd place finish in the A-Main marked the third consecutive year Bacon has finished as the runner-up in the Indiana Sprint Week round at Kokomo in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts – TelStar/Triple X/Rider Chevy. The 2016 Indiana Sprint Week champion leads the ISW standings exiting Kokomo.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) led the first nine laps of the feature en route to a 3rd place result in his KT Motorsports/Dr. Pepper Presents the Ronald McDonald House Charities/DRC/Speedway Chevy. The final spot on the podium was KTJ’s best Indiana Sprint Week finish at Kokomo since earning a 3rd in 2016. He won the round in 2013.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 24, 2021 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week By AMSOIL
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT ONE: 1. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.594; 2. Logan Seavey, 5, Baldwin-12.683; 3. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.858; 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-12.948; 5. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.958; 6. Chase Johnson, 22, Goodnight-12.993; 7. Scotty Weir, 4p, Pedersen-13.078; 8. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.086; 9. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-13.161; 10. Jason McDougal, 5m, KO-13.293; 11. Max Guilford, 79BT, Goodnight-13.337; 12. Brady Short, 61m, Edwards-13.367; 13. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-13.463; 14. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-13.463; 15. Tyler Hewitt, 57, Hazen-13.473; 16. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-13.541; 17. Sterling Cling, 34, Cling-13.558; 18. Harley Burns, 16, Burns-13.610; 19. Zack Pretorius, 9z, Pretorius-13.619; 20. Ryan Barr, 21B, Barr-13.673; 21. Alex Banales, 5x, Baldwin/Fox-13.786; 22. Critter Malone, 7, Seven-13.885; 23. David Hair, 44, Hair-14.157; 24. Jack James, 99, James-14.229; 25. Tayte Williamson, 20, 88 Speed Shop-14.493; 26. Ryan Bond, 7R, Bond-15.518; 27. Cooper Welch, 2w, Welch-NT.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT TWO: 1. Jadon Rogers, 14, Rogers-13.061; 2. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-13.152; 3. C.J. Leary, 77m, Michael-13.167; 4. Brent Beauchamp, 29, LB-13.233; 5. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-13.327; 6. Braydon Cromwell, 4x, Cromwell-13.373; 7. Thomas Meseraull, 2, Yeley-13.385; 8. Cannon McIntosh, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-13.388; 9. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.426; 10. Tanner Thorson, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.441; 11. Brayden Fox, 53, Fox-13.458; 12. Jordan Kinser, 17G, On The Gass-13.503; 13. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-13.525; 14. Tye Mihocko, 47, Eades-13.599; 15. Garrett Aitken, 32, Aitken-13.624; 16. Paul Nienhiser, 5N, KO-13.643; 17. Evan Mosley, 27, Mosley-13.656; 18. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-13.669; 19. Charles Davis Jr., 47D, Davis-13.763; 20. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-13.787; 21. Stevie Sussex, 77s, Sturgeon-13.798; 22. Anthony D’Alessio, 01, D’Alessio-13.835; 23. Korbyn Hayslett, 1H, Hayslett-13.868; 24. Mitchell Davis, 56, Davis-13.900; 25. Brayden Clark, 42, Jackson/Clark-14.030; 26. Kyle Edwards, 39E, Edwards-14.067; 27. Chase Jones, 81G, Gray-14.466.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Tyler Hewitt, 6. Max Guilford, 7. Sterling Cling, 8. Matt Goodnight, 9. Zack Pretorius, 10. Alex Banales, 11. Cooper Welch, 12. Tayte Williamson, 13. David Hair, 14. Scotty Weir. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Brady Short, 3. Jason McDougal, 4. Brandon Mattox, 5. Critter Malone, 6. Logan Seavey, 7. Chris Gansen, 8. Ryan Barr, 9. Ryan Bond, 10. Jack James, 11. Harley Burns, 12. Chase Johnson, 13. Dustin Clark. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Jadon Rogers, 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Charles Davis Jr., 7. Brayden Fox, 8. Korbyn Hayslett, 9. Stevie Sussex, 10. Chase Jones, 11. Brayden Clark, 12. Evan Mosley, 13. Garrett Aitken. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Braydon Cromwell, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Cannon McIntosh, 5. Jordan Kinser, 6. Brent Beauchamp, 7. Cole Bodine, 8. Tye Mihocko, 9. Paul Nienhiser, 10. Chase Stockon, 11. Anthony D’Alessio, 12. Mitchell Davis, 13. Kyle Edwards. 2:18.24
THE FROLIC BAR & GRILL D-MAIN: (6 laps, shortened to 0 laps due to accident, top-6 transfer to the C-main) 1. Jack James, 2. Mitchell Davis, 3. Tayte Williamson, 4. Brayden Clark, 5. Kyle Edwards, 6. Chase Jones. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Stevie Sussex, 2. Evan Mosley, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Cole Bodine, 5. Harley Burns, 6. Ryan Barr, 7. Zack Pretorius, 8. Charles Davis Jr., 9. Sterling Cling, 10. Brayden Clark, 11. Chase Jones, 12. Korbyn Hayslett, 13. David Hair, 14. Kyle Edwards, 15. Jack James, 16. Tayte Williamson, 17. Alex Banales, 18. Critter Malone, 19. Anthony D’Alessio, 20. Mitchell Davis. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Chase Johnson, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Brent Beauchamp, 5. Stevie Sussex, 6. Max Guilford, 7. Tye Mihocko, 8. Jordan Kinser, 9. Paul Nienhiser, 10. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 11. Chase Stockon, 12. Tyler Hewitt, 13. Matt Goodnight, 14. Cole Bodine, 15. Brayden Fox, 16. Chris Gansen, 17. Dustin Clark, 18. Evan Mosley. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, shortened to 18 laps due to rain, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (3), 2. Brady Bacon (6), 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1), 4. C.J. Leary (2), 5. Tanner Thorson (9), 6. Kyle Cummins (7), 7. Chris Windom (4), 8. Jadon Rogers (5), 9. Robert Ballou (8), 10. Logan Seavey (10), 11. Shane Cottle (18), 12. Brent Beauchamp (11), 13. Jake Swanson (12), 14. Chase Johnson (13), 15. Cannon McIntosh (17), 16. Braydon Cromwell (14), 17. Cole Bodine (23-P), 18. Thomas Meseraull (15), 19. Stevie Sussex (22), 20. Max Guilford (20), 21. Brady Short (21), 22. Jason McDougal (19), 23. Brandon Mattox (16). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
**Garrett Aitken flipped during the third heat. Ryan Bond & Cooper Welch flipped during the D-Main. Anthony D’Alessio & Mitchell Davis flipped during the C-Main. Brandon Mattox flipped on lap 6 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 Kevin Thomas Jr., Laps 9-18 Justin Grant.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1449, 2-Justin Grant-1392, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1369, 4-C.J. Leary-1244, 5-Robert Ballou-1242, 6-Tanner Thorson-1196, 7-Chris Windom-1178, 8-Jake Swanson-1143, 9-Chase Stockon-866, 10-Paul Nienhiser-825.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK BY AMSOIL POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-92, 2-Justin Grant-89, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-85, 4-Tanner Thorson-77, 5-Kyle Cummins-77, 6-C.J. Leary-76, 7-Chris Windom-68, 8-Logan Seavey-66, 9-Jadon Rogers-65, 10-Robert Ballou-64.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-100, 2-Thomas Meseraull-94, 3-Robert Ballou-87, 4-Kevin Thomas Jr.-83, 5-Chris Windom-83, 6-Justin Grant-76, 7-Brady Bacon-76, 8-Logan Seavey-65, 9-Buddy Kofoid-63, 10-Cannon McIntosh-53.
INDIANA SPRINT WEEK PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 25, 2021 – Lawrenceburg Speedway – Lawrenceburg, Indiana – 3/8-Mile Dirt Track – 34th NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week by AMSOIL
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
GSP Driving Performance of the Night: Cannon McIntosh
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Brady Bacon
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Kyle Cummins
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Kevin Thomas Jr.
Indy Metal Finishing Third Heat Winner: Robert Ballou
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Tanner Thorson
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Logan Seavey
The Frolic Bar & Grill D-Main: Jack James
KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger: Shane Cottle (18th to 11th)
ProSource Hard Work Award: Stevie Sussex
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Jake Swanson
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Tye Mihocko