OCALA, Fla. — Justin Grant bested fellow Californian Chad Boespflug and hard-charger Carson Short in Friday night’s crowd thrilling AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series opener on a very tacky and unusually choppy Bubba Raceway Park.
Thursday’s daylong rain put the track crew to the test and while it took a while, they produced a very racy surface for the opener of the now two-day series.
In time trials, Hunter Schuerenberg stopped the clocks with a new track record of 13.721 for the D-shaped three-eighths-mile oval only to have Grant come out later and lower the record to 13.683 seconds.
USAC’s leading winner, Dave Darland, was the polesitter for the 30-lap feature with C.J. Leary alongside. Leary got the jump on the veteran on the initial green flag, though Darland stormed back around him down the backstretch to lead the early laps. But by lap three the sixth-starting Grant had stormed to second and the writing was on the wall for Darland.
Lap nine saw Grant get his Brown and Miller Racing Solutions No. 11 alongside Darland briefly, then the duo swapped the lead a couple of times before Grant took command to stay on lap 12, just before they caught the backmarkers.
At halfway, it was Grant by a turn over Darland, Boespflug, Leary and Short but a lap 19 yellow to retrieve a stalled car brought him back to the field. Darland took a shot at the lead on the restart but instead of gaining on Grant, he started pulling his front wheels off the ground and losing time in the turns, letting first Boespflug and then Short by.
By the late 20s, Boespflug had turned up the wick a few notches and was challenging Grant for the lead just as they hit traffic, further escalating the battle. But with two to go a car caught fire, bringing the final yellow and giving Grant a clear run to the checkers once the race was restarted.
“I knew if I could hold Chad off for one lap after that restart, I’d be OK,” offered Grant. “When you run the high line like I was, it opens the bottom on the restarts but I knew that once I got going, unless I made a mistake nobody was going to be able to get by.
“The track had a lot of bite and it was choppy, so we just cowboyed it up and rode it out.”
“It was close,” added Boespflug. “We were the same all race and as the bottom in two came in we got better and better, just not good enough. If it had been a little smoother, we might have had a better shot at Justin.”
Brady Short finished third, but his car was too light on the scales and he was disqualified.
Stockon, Bacon and Leary rounded out the top five.
To see full results, turn to the next page.