KOKOMO, Ind. — Sprint Car Smackdown week began just as it left off last year, with Justin Grant racing to victory Wednesday in #GYATK Night at Kokomo Speedway.
Grant emerged from a mid-race tussle with Brady Bacon and Thomas Meseraull, then slid by Bacon with eight laps remaining to score the victory in the non-points 27-lap special event.
“Man, that was a heck of a race,” Grant exclaimed. “It was an absolute blast to run. Maybe the only thing more fun than running it would’ve been watching it.”
Grant had a good seat to watch early on as he went to work in his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – Bow Foundation – Challenger Construction/Maxim/Claxton Chevy, starting fifth in the 22-car field while Meseraull and Bacon occupied the front row where the two went toe-to-toe into turn one on the opening lap before Bacon blasted around the outside of Meseraull in turn two to occupy the lead.
Near the completion of the second lap, third-running Carson Short walked away uninjured after tangling with C.J. Leary off turn four and barrel-rolled twice down the front straightaway. Despite the incident, the Marion, Ill., driver’s crew made repairs and he rejoined the field for the restart, ultimately racing to a 12th place finish at the checkered.
Once racing resumed, Meseraull was on the attack from the second position, sliding Bacon into turn one on lap four. Bacon countered underneath off turn and raced back to the point into turn three. Meseraull kept his foot in it and, with four wheels above the turn four cushion, managed to drive around Bacon to snare the race lead.
After a Max Adams tangle with the turn two wall on the fifth lap, Meseraull rode the rim out front, nearly dancing with the concrete in turns one and two on lap nine as he kept Bacon at arm’s length distance behind in second.
Just before the halfway mark, the battle at the front became a three-way affair with Bacon applying pressure underneath Meseraull between turns three and four. That opened the door for Grant to slide under Bacon for second in turn one with 14 circuits remaining.
The trio went three-deep on the other end of the speedway in turn three, but Grant snagged the turn four cushion, popping the front wheels up, thus allowing Bacon to slide back by Grant into turn one. Grant was prepared and cut back underneath Bacon to retake second off two. Bacon wasn’t ready to give in and drove back underneath Grant for second off turns three and four, nipping Grant by a car length at the line with Meseraull just two lengths ahead out front.
Grant got up on the wheel and drove around the outside of Bacon off turn two for second, then went for broke, throwing a slider into turn three by Meseraull as Bacon poked underneath both drivers to make it three-wide off turn four. Meseraull beat Grant to the line by a half-car length with Bacon a car length behind Grant.
Meseraull attempted to move up to the top line entering turn one with 11 to go, nearly making contact with Grant as Bacon shot underneath both to go to the point. Both Grant and Meseraull raced to the bottom entering turn three side-by-side with just micrometers separating the two while Bacon exited the fray with the lead on top by two car lengths at the line with 10 to go.
Grant entered turn one on the bottom, sliding up and nearly picking off two positions in one fell swoop, pulling even with Bacon in turn two while Meseraull found a rocky road atop the cushion, enduring a half-spin, but managed to keep going and avoid contact from the evasive actions of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader C.J. Leary, putting him out of contention to battle for the win down the stretch.
Now, with two-thirds of the race in the book, it became a one-on-one contest between Bacon and Grant. Grant had a feeling he would be good to go once the chaos of a three-car war cleared. Easier said then done, but Grant made it happen with just eight to go.
“I knew we were pretty good if I could get those guys cleared,” Grant explained. “It got so ledgy off of four, guys would hit that and get messed up. Fortunately, it wasn’t upsetting us much. We could get a big run on guys and I could slide them into one and two and make enough grip there to not get crossed over.”
There’d be no crossing over by the competition on the 20th lap as Bacon went to the middle line in turn one. Grant ventured lower and slid up in front of Bacon for the lead. Bacon nearly came to a complete stop in the process, almost killing the engine, but kept it fired and continued on, albeit two-and-a-half seconds now behind Grant.
Down the stretch, Grant ripped around lapped traffic, opening up a 3.398 second advantage at the checkered to capture the victory in the third edition of #GYATK Night over Bacon, Leary, Meseraull and Logan Seavey.
“Tonight, we had some stuff we’ve been thinking would work,” Grant explained. “But it’s been kind of a dice roll whether to do it or not. We threw it at it and boy did it work. We’ve been sketching out stuff on paper trying to figure out how to come up with the best mousetrap we can, and it makes you feel good when you hit it. A lot of the things we’ve been working on and trying and we’re finally getting them to come together. I felt like during Indiana Sprint Week, we had a lot of speed, and we kind of found our legs again.”
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