Grant Converts Confidence Into USAC Sprint Win

Grant Converts Confidence
Justin Grant celebrates in victory lane at 34 Raceway on Saturday. (Brendon Bauman photo)

WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa – Justin Grant was confident before the green flag ever waved Saturday night at 34 Raceway that he’d have a shot at an AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series win.

He backed that confidence up with a dominating performance at the three-eighths-mile dirt track.

After starting on the outside pole, Grant soared around defending series champion C.J. Leary exiting turn two on the first lap and never surrendered the top spot again. The Ione, Calif., native led all 30 revolutions in his No. 4 NOS Energy Drink mount for TOPP Motorsports en route to the victory.

Despite a track that went progressively rubber-down as the race wore on, Grant fended off all of Leary’s advances in traffic and then pulled away on a four-lap dash to the finish, winning by .845 seconds.

Saturday night’s score marked Grant’s first series win of the year and the 17th of his career, though it didn’t come without its nerves down the stretch.

Justin Grant en route to victory at 34 Raceway. (Brendon Bauman photo)

“Lap traffic is always nerve-wracking, and rubber is always nerve-wracking when you’re the leader, because you have to stay on top of where it’s at, you can’t kill the tires and you can’t run over a lap car … but at the same time you have to be aggressive because guys are coming behind you,” Grant explained in victory lane. “It’s a tough give-and-take when it lays rubber, but man, this track was an absolute blast before it did. It was hot and windy all day, so it’s hard to prevent it from taking rubber when the weather’s like that, but the first half of that race was an absolute blast.

“We were banging the curb in one and two, and then running it as hard as I could down in three and four,” Grant continued. “I’m just pumped to be driving this No. 4. I told my guys after the heat race, ‘we’re going to stomp them tonight, because this thing is good,’ and it feels good to back that up.”

Leary finished as the runner-up in an unfamiliar car, wheeling the No. 5k for Kent Schmidt after his family’s No. 30 was severely damaged in a heat-race flip with the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League on Thursday evening.

He started from the pole, chased Grant all the way, and actually nosed ahead in traffic just moments before the lap-26 caution that ultimately cleared the path to victory for his front-running rival.

It was an impressive run considering the circumstances for Leary, who mustered a smile afterward despite coming up one spot short.

“I just can’t thank Kent and everyone enough for putting this deal together for me last minute,” said Leary. “I didn’t really know what to expect, coming here and being in a new car, but we were pretty good all night. I just felt like whoever got in front of the other was probably going to win the race. I made a late-race charge there on Justin in the rubber and traffic, and almost made it interesting, but it wasn’t quite enough at the end.”

Kevin Thomas Jr. completed the podium, followed by Brady Bacon, who was seeking a record third USAC National Sprint Car Series win to open the year after sweeping action in Florida back in February.

Thursday POWRi WAR winner Chris Windom was fifth, ahead of Logan Seavey, Robert Ballou, Wyatt Burks, Carson Short and Chase Stockon, who made his 297th consecutive series start on Saturday.

Saturday night’s race was slowed twice, once on the initial start when Anton Hernandez spun in turn one, then for the second and final time with four to go after Brandon Mattox slowed with a shredded right-rear tire entering turn three. Each time, Grant pulled away from the rest of his pursuers.

The USAC National Sprint Car Series season continues Sunday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., a track the tour is visiting for the first time since the 2018 season.

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