ROSSBURG, Ohio — Eldora Speedway has provided the highest of highs and lowest of lows to Justin Grant over the last couple of seasons.
Just a little over four months after his most recent visit to Eldora Speedway, Grant, a 2015 Eldora USAC Sprint Car winner, found himself without a full-time sprint car ride.
Grant joined forces with the Sam McGhee Motorsports team in mid-August and the pair has gelled.
Saturday night at Eldora, it all finally came together for the team and the driver as they both recorded their biggest wins to date in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car portion of the 35th running of the 4-Crown Nationals.
On the opening lap, outside front row starter Matt Westfall held off a Thomas Meseraull slider in the first turn to secure the lead early on. Instantly, Grant followed Westfall on the outside to fall in line in the second spot.
Westfall, an Eldora USAC Sprint Car winner back in 2006, looked solid in the early going, leading the first third of the feature. But Grant was on a mission that saw him dive to the bottom of turn three on lap 11, sliding up in front of Westfall to claim the lead as Westfall began to fade.
Eighth starting Chris Windom began to ascend by the midway point of the 30-lapper as he reeled in Grant just before a lap 13 caution fell for the stopped car of Scotty Weir, who was caught up in a back straightaway kerfuffle that involved a few cars, with Weir being the unluckiest one of the bunch.
The yellow placed Windom on the tail of Grant for the lap-13 restart, providing a prime opportunity for Windom to challenge Grant.
Windom hurried to the bottom for a slide job on Grant, momentarily nosing ahead between turns one and two, but with little room to spare with Windom underneath him and the concrete wall to his outside, but Grant kept his foot on the gas to escape through the narrow alley left open to reclaim the lead.
Grant extended his lead to a full second over Windom, and by the time he would reach lapped traffic with ten to go, Grant would gladly accept all the extra breathing room he could get.
The two continued to engage in a high-speed, high-wire act through the back of the field as they came upon the car of Jerry Coons Jr. with five laps to go. Grant had to briefly step out of the throttle, allowing Windom to pull alongside the inside of Grant momentarily, but was unable to rip the lead away from Grant.
Windom remained within striking distance of Grant in the final circuits as Grant threaded the needle, going for the jugular as he squeezed his way between the lapped cars of Bret Mellenberndt and Jarett Andretti at the entrance of turn one.
Grant manufactured a little bit of space between himself and Windom that might’ve made all the difference.
On the final corner of the final lap, Windom was close, but not close enough for any last lap heroics on this night, as Grant hung on to win his fourth career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature and the first ever for the Sam McGhee Motorsports Team over Windom, Brady Bacon, Dave Darland and Tyler Courtney.
“I don’t know what it was like behind me, but it was exciting looking out of the front of the 17 car,” Grant said. “The holes in one and two were a handful. It seemed like it was fastest just to run right through them. (Turns) three and four were real tricky. I had to be careful not to get into the fence down there. When you get in lapped traffic, you’re just kind of on a hope and a prayer.”
“I can’t thank the McGhee family enough,” Grant continued. “Sam McGhee does an amazing job with this race car. He’s 16 years old. He does all the work on this thing, sets it up and calls all the shots; he’s incredible! This race has always been one of the big ones to me, if not the biggest one. I’ve won at Eldora before, but the 4-Crown is a whole other level of special.”