TULSA, Okla. – Coming into the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, the only preliminary program that didn’t have a definitive dominator was Friday’s Driven2SaveLives Qualifying Night.
Justin Grant put that discussion to bed with a flawless performance in the final tune-up before Saturday’s alphabet soup races at Tulsa Expo Raceway, leading all 30 laps of the main event.
In his first Chili Bowl outing with RMS Racing, Grant left no doubt who the top dog in town was. He got the jump on polesitter Kyle Cummins at the initial start from the outside pole, then simply drove away.
Grant opened up a lead of nearly three seconds on two separate occasions, then masterfully worked through heavy traffic in the late stages before holding off a final charge from Cummins on the last lap.
The Ione, Calif., native and reigning USAC Silver Crown Series champion took the checkered flag in front by .552 seconds for his fourth Friday preliminary win at the Chili Bowl in the last five years.
“I knew we had a pretty good lead looking up at the board, and I felt good, then I started getting tight on the curb. Fortunately, traffic made me hustle, get the right rear tire stood back up, and start hitting my marks,” said Grant. “I saw Kyle coming on the board and knew it was time to stop being patient and start moving them out of the way.”
RMS marks the third different team Grant has won a preliminary night with in Tulsa, joining Clauson Marshall Racing (2017) and RAMS Racing (2019).
But as effortless as the box score made Grant’s win look, he said it was anything but simple thanks to all the cars in his way down the home stretch of the feature.
“I had them side-by-side like six rows deep, and I was just trying to pick my way through and about had one guy slide me back on the last lap,” noted Grant. “It was a wild one, that’s for sure.”
The final 19 laps ran uninterrupted, following three yellow flags in the first 11 laps.
A stalled Brent Beauchamp with one lap scored caused the first slowdown, while Jesse Colwell’s flipping No. 14 forced the yellow flag to return on lap six. However, once the final caution waved on lap 11 for a three-car tangle involving Luke Icke, Kinzer Edwards and Tyler Edwards, the race ran green to the finish.
Cummins chased down Grant from more than three seconds back inside of 10 to go, but never got an opportunity in traffic to try and wrest the win away from the NOS Energy Drink No. 2j.
Second was good enough for the past Midwest Sprint Car Series champion, however, as Cummins’ runner-up finish locked him into his first career Saturday A Main at the Chili Bowl.
Cummins is hopeful he can enjoy it, however, considering his wife is due with their daughter any day.
“At the beginning the car just wasn’t handling,” Cummins said. “It was all over the place. Once the track got cleaned off, all of the sudden it just took off. I thought I had Justin there; that was going to be great.
“The night went over great,” added Cummins, who also banked $1,500 as the fastest car in Friday hot laps. “My daughter’s about to be born … so far we’re taking it by ear. I’ve got a plane ride out (of Tulsa) in the morning if something happens, but I’d skip this in a heartbeat to be there for that. We’ll see.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. put together an incredible run through the alphabet on Friday, transferring out of a C Main after a heat race crash, then coming from last to win his B Main just to make the Friday feature.
The NASCAR Cup Series regular then charged from 18th on the grid to complete the podium.
Tanner Thorson also came from the C Main to the A Main, finishing fourth, with 2013 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Daryn Pittman crossing fifth.
Damion Gardner, Chili Bowl rookie Jesse Love, Aaron Reutzel, J.J. Yeley and Ronnie Gardner closed the top 10.
With all the lineups set, Saturday’s racing program begins with twin M Features at 10 a.m. CT.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
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