LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Racing as if he had nothing to lose, Justin Grant captured Saturday’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series feature at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Grant grabbed the lead on a restart with two laps to go for his first USAC feature win since 2012. Dave Darland led early, but finished second, followed by Jerry Coons Jr., Brady Bacon and Jon Stanbrough.
It was the first event on USAC’s national sprint car schedule since the opening weekend in Ocala, Fla., six weeks earlier, and 42 cars had signed in.
From the pole-starting slot, Darland outran Jerry Coons Jr. and Thomas Meseraull for the lead of the 30-lap feature race, working the bottom at both ends of the track. While a caution on lap six involved Travis Hery and Jarett Andretti, Meseraull retired with a brake problem.
Stanbrough, the fast qualifier, found a quick line mid-track and raced into third. On the eighth circuit, Bryan Clauson got out of shape in turn four, catching up Chris Gurley and Kevin Thomas Jr. running behind him with Thomas taking a tumble to bring out a red flag.
Stanbrough battled past Coons to take second after the restart. Grant had advanced to sixth by running the No. 40 Mark Hery Racing/Dick’s Body Shop/DRC higher up in the turns. He later explained that after the heavy rain during the week, the track suited his car. “Just getting it freed up and just getting it to go through the holes right. We have a good shock package and that’s kind of what we do good, rough and heavy race tracks. It just kind of fell into our deal.”
On the 10th lap, Stanbrough caught Darland, but the battle was short as Stanbrough took the lead as they raced off turn four. The No. 37rw Dutcher/Tristar/Rotondo-Weirich Maxim opened a five second advantage by quickly working through a pack of slower cars, while Darland was held up for a lap, allowing Grant and Coons to catch him. On lap 27, Grant got around Darland, and two laps later the caution flew again when C.J. Leary hit the turn one wall.
The caution flag erased Stanbrough’s nearly half-lap lead, as Grant, Darland, Coons and Bacon lined up immediately behind him. On the restart, Stanbrough got crossed up in turn two, and twisted up out of the groove before getting the car back under him. By then several cars had hustled past and Grant held a half-straightaway lead, which is how they finished.
Back in the pits, as he packed his driver’s suit, Stanbrough admitted he had found a rut in turn two. “Yeah, I hit it a few times during the race and I was trying not to go in there and hit it again, and hit it. It lost the race for us.”
With a grin, Grant said that running the top was a gamble.
“We fired off pretty quick and it was like, ‘We’re going to run up near the front.’ Then a lot of guys moved to the top and I was like, ‘I need these guys to get out of the way a little bit.’ Luckily it chunked up and rutted up up there and got a lot of those guys down off of it. Once those guys moved off of the bottom, I thought we had a good chance. I got to second and thought, ‘Man, we’re going to run second.’ Then the yellow came out and I was pretty confident we had them then.”
On the final restart, Grant had to alter his strategy, but it worked out for him.
“I was actually planning to go to the top because he had been running the bottom. He must have got some signals from his guys to move to the top. He tried, but it didn’t work out and he got all messed up in the holes. Luckily we were able to drive under him and point and go.”
The victory put Grant a single point behind Darland in the series standings, with Stockon even further behind, followed by defending champion Bryan Clauson and Brady Bacon.