By Richie Murray
Belleville, Kansas (May 15, 2023)………Justin Grant relishes the fact that he has a figurative target on his back entering the 2023 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season.
The Ione, Calif. native has finished third and second in the final midget standings during each of the past two seasons, so the next logical step for him is to jump up another spot – to the top of the podium where so few have stood before.
Grant already possesses a pair of USAC National titles, first taking the Silver Crown series in 2020 and the AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in 2022, but one prong of his crown remains absent at the moment – the midgets – which would put him in elite company.
Only seven drivers have achieved the feat of winning national driving titles with the Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midgets in their career: Pancho Carter, Tony Stewart, Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley, Jerry Coons Jr., Tracy Hines and Chris Windom.
Just two of those drivers – Stewart and Yeley – have accomplished all three as a single season USAC Triple Crown champion, a reward that is also in play this coming season for Grant as he pursues one of the all-time greatest feats in auto racing.
Grant enters his third season as a driver for RMS Racing’s midget program, and he aims to make year number three the most charmed of all.
“I enjoy it; I kind of like having a bit of a target on my back. It makes me feel like I’m doing my job,” Grant acknowledged. “But there’s not really any extra pressure. I put plenty on myself as it is. Being able to be to succeed in those moments where you have to rise to the occasion; that’s what it’s all about.”
As far as becoming the eighth to reach career Triple Crown club status, Grant readily admits it is an honor he thinks about. With that said, it’s not the main motivating factor that is driving him forward this season. It’s all about repetition, consistency and rising to the moment night-in, night out.
“I definitely think about it and it’s definitely on my mind,” Grant said of the career USAC Triple Crown. “It’s not necessarily where my focus is. Most of my focus is on building fast racecars and doing a good job as a racecar driver, then letting the rest of that take care of itself. If we have fast cars and I do a good job, that’s where we’ll end up. But I’ve got two championship trophies on my shelf, and they’re on a shelf where there’s room for a third.”
Grant has earned the high majority of his midget racing success over the past two seasons with RMS Racing, which is based out of Western Springs, Ill. Grant’s record includes nine USAC National Midget feature victories in 72 starts over the last two years. Previously to joining RMS, he’d gained five wins in an eight season span between 2013-20. This year, Grant feels, has the potential to become the best of the bunch.
“We’ve put a fair amount of work in this winter trying to get prepared and ready,” Grant explained. “I’ve been working with (crew chief) Lacey (Doyle) and everybody at RMS in trying to make a really good run at the championship. We’re going into our third year together, so everybody’s kind of meshed and jelled and ready to go capitalize.”
It’s majorly difficult to win one USAC National championship, let alone two, three or more. Grant, along with Logan Seavey, are the only two full-time 2023 USAC National Midget competitors to experience that feeling and knows what it takes from top to bottom to achieve. Grant’s done it twice now and a third would require the same output of dedication and effort from all, which he knows is a challenge his RMS team is fully prepared to go face-to-face with and conquer.
“With as many races as we run and being on kill that many nights a year,” Grant began. “For me as a driver, I tend to go pretty hard. So, staying healthy for 40 nights (of the schedule) is sometimes one of the obstacles that I have to overcome. Then, just having a great team of prepared people who put in the work, stay after it all year long, keep showing up and keep bringing great racecars. That’s what it takes. When the big full weeks roll around and it’s hot and everybody’s tired and their effort doesn’t change. That’s what it takes. I’m fortunate that I have that everywhere I go now. Having all that, it kind of all falls back on me to be as healthy and prepared and on point as I can be.”
Grant begins both his USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship and USAC Silver Crown National Championship this Friday-Saturday, May 19-20.
On Friday, it’s practice night for the USAC Silver Crown division at Belleville with three separate sessions throughout the night in conjunction with a full program for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship. The pits open at 3pm Central. Front gates open at 5:30pm. Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $25. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $15. A one-day pit pass is $35 and two-day pit passes are $60.
On Saturday, it’s a full race day for both the USAC Silver Crown and USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship divisions. The pits open at 3pm Central. Front gates open at 5:30pm. Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $30. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $20. A one-day pit pass is $40 and two-day pit passes are $60.
The entire events for both nights at Belleville can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3ZjeooQ.