By Jay Hardin
Springfield Illinois (August 16, 2021)………Ione, California’s Justin Grant reached a milestone in 2017 by claiming his first 100-mile USAC Silver Crown National Championship win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Grant reached a second milestone when he captured his first USAC Silver Crown title in 2020.
The USAC star is looking to repeat both milestones in 2021.
Winning the Saturday, August 21, Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield would make Grant a two time Springfield winner and go a long way to assisting him in his quest for a second national championship.
Long recognized as one of the stars of the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Grant’s natural progression was to the bigger cars, landing one part-time deal in 2012 with legendary championship owner/chief mechanic Bob Hampshire and DePalma Motorsports. The combination had limited success with Grant finishing 13th at the Hoosier Hundred and missing the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield.
The next season, Grant secured a ride with Marc Longworth for the Hoosier Hundred and went from 18th to 6th. However, rides for the other two miles failed to materialize.
Grant’s big break appeared in 2015 when he teamed with owner Chris Carli. A fifth in the Hoosier Hundred was followed by a pole at Springfield and a fourth at Du Quoin. Grant appeared on the cusp of breaking through for that elusive one-mile dirt track win. The 2016 season saw the team make just 2 starts on the dirt miles, with mechanical issues forcing Grant out of the Hoosier Hundred and he ended up 19th at Du Quoin.
Grant got an even bigger break in 2017 as 1996 Indianapolis winning car owner Ron Hemelgarn joined forces with Carli. While the Hoosier Hundred was lost to rain, the combination worked at Springfield, starting on the outside of the front row and leading 79 of 100 miles to claim his first Silver Crown series win as well as his first Bettenhausen 100.
Grant then won at Terre Haute in 2018 for his second series win again with Hemelgarn.
In the pandemic plagued 2020 season, Grant had top finishes, but no victories, and joined legends such as Jimmy Caruthers and Billy Cassella as drivers who won the Silver Crown championship without the benefit of a win during the championship season.
Grant has been a consistent performer in 2021 and pulled off his first pavement win in the big cars by narrowly beating Kody Swanson to the line in the Rich Vogler Classic at Winchester. However, an 18th place finish and crash at Lucas Oil Raceway in the Hoosier Classic dropped him to third in the current standings.
Grant edged Kyle Larson for his second pole at Springfield last year and led the opening ten circuits. A win at Springfield would close the points gap to leader Kody Swanson with just three races remaining after the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the first Silver Crown Series race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the series itself.
The 58th Bettenhausen 100 features the USAC Silver Crown National Championship & the 28th Annual Illinois Sportsman Nationals DIRTcar Racing Sportsman prelims.
Pits and registration open at 7am Central. The ticket office and grandstands open at 9am. The drivers meeting will take place at 9:30am. Silver Crown practice runs from 10-11:10am followed by Fatheadz Eyewear qualifying at 11:30am Sportsman hot laps at Noon, Silver Crown semi-feature at 12:30pm, Sportsman heats at 1pm, pre-race ceremonies at 1:30pm and the USAC Silver Crown Bettenhausen 100 race at 2pm.
Tickets will be available on race day or by calling the State Fair office at 217-782-1979. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.
Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. At the gate on race day, adults are $30 and $10 for children 11 and under. Infield tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 11 and under. Pit passes are $35 for USAC members and $40 for non-members. Infield parking is $5 for those park in infield with no infield or pit passes.
Every lap of Saturday’s Bettenhausen 100 will be aired live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2ZpafUr.