Grant Outruns the Field and the Weather at Kokomo

Justin Grant. (Rich Forman photo)

From Richie Murray

KOKOMO, Ind. (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.

Indiana Sprint Week
USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series
Kokomo Speedway
Kokomo, Indiana
Saturday, July 24, 2021

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

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

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

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
Time: 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

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

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

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)

(P) represents a provisional starter

Feature (18 Laps):
1. 4-Justin Grant
2. 69-Brady Bacon
3. 9K-Kevin Thomas Jr.
4. 77M C.J. Leary
5. 19AZ-Tanner Thorson
6. 3R-Kyle Cummins
7. 19-Chris Windom
8. 14-Jadon Rogers
9. 12-Robert Ballou
10. 5-Logan Seavey
11. 74x-Shane Cottle
12. 29-Brent Beauchamp
13. 21AZ-Jake Swanson
14. 22-Chase Johnson
15. 71P-Cannon McIntosh
16. 4x-Braydon Cromwell
17. 39BC-Cole Bodine
18. 2-Thomas Meseraull
19. 77s-Stevie Sussex
20. 79BT-Max Guilford
21. 61M-Brady Short
22. 5M-Jason McDougal
23. 28-Brandon Mattox

(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.