Grant’s The Man In Knoxville USAC Run

Justin Grant was the class of the field last year at Knoxville Raceway. (Ken Berry photo)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Justin Grant led from start to finish to score his first triumph at the “Sprint Car Capital of the World” in the crazy 30-lap AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series feature Saturday night at the Knoxville Raceway.

The Ione, Calif., native was the class of the field despite several caution periods throughout the event.

The win came aboard the Sam McGhee Motorsports No. 11 and was worth $5,000.

Grant shot out from his pole position to start the USAC main in event with Robert Ballou and Chad Boespflug in tow.  Just one lap was recorded when a multi-car accident on the backstretch marred things.  Among the crashed cars were veterans Jon Stanbrough and Brady Bacon.  Nick Bilbee, Hunter Schuerenberg and Brody Roa were also involved.  Stanbrough and Bilbee would retire, while Bacon would make extensive repairs and rejoin the field.

Tyler Courtney, who was running fourth on the restart, slammed the turn one wall when action resumed, but kept it on all fours and kept on trucking.  The lead trio remained the same, but action heated up back in the pack.  By lap five, Chris Windom had charged from 18th into the top 10.

Courtney rebounded and passed Boespflug for third on lap six, but eight circuits later, he would suffer a vicious ground-pounder in turn two.  He walked away from his destroyed machine.

Grant led Ballou, Boespflug, Chase Stockon and C.J. Leary back to green.  A wicked battle for fifth commenced involving Josh Hodges and Windom before Dave Darland, who was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in the afternoon, bicycled in turn two and came to a stop.

While the leaders remained the same, Hodges and Windom battled for fifth.  Soon, Leary entered the fray, and he and Windom went back and forth a number of times for position.

No one would match Grant in the end, as he sailed under the checkers ahead of Ballou, Boespflug, Stockon and Leary.  Hard-charger Windom, Kevin Thomas Jr., Hodges, Shane Cottle and Bacon, back from the tail, rounded out the top 10.

“Those yellows and reds were killing me,” said Grant.  “You don’t want to sit around and think about things, especially here at Knoxville.  The nerves start playing on you.  It’s incredible to be standing in front of this crowd on this race track.  These guys give me a great race car.  This thing was a rocket ship tonight.  I can’t put this into words.  I wasn’t comfortable at the start of the night, but here we are.  It shows how good this team is.”

“We got beat fair and square tonight,” said Ballou.  “Justin ran 30 perfect laps.  We pretty much (stunk) tonight, compared to where we should be.  I’m rusty.  We need a jump start.  I lost forty pounds over the winter after breaking my neck and we’re trying to find out what makes me comfortable.  I’m glad to be second, because it felt like about a tenth place car.  To be on the podium…just to race again is a blessing.”

“(Grant’s) been fast all year,” said the third running Boespflug.  “They’ve been the one to chase all year.  We’ve been struggling the last few races, so to get on the podium tonight…I think we found some things and hopefully, we can carry this momentum on to PA Speedweek.  It was my first time here, and hopefully, we can come back next year.”

Wayne Johnson was also a wire-to-wire winner in the 360 sprint car class.  In the 305 class, Kevin Hetrick made a last-corner pass to record his third victory of the season and fourth in his career here.

To see full results, turn to the next page.