There's something about Friday nights at the Chili Bowl Nationals that brings the best out of Justin Grant. For the third straight year, Grant punched his ticket for Saturday's A-Main feature in Tulsa, Oklahoma by winning the Friday night qualifying race at the River Spirit Expo Center.
In a race that was a stark contrast from Thursday night's caution-filled affair, Grant started from the pole position and led wire-to-wire in a caution-free race.
"Man, I love racing Friday here. Everybody books their plane ticket for Friday morning. They're here to see it, it's a big crowd and I love Friday night," Grant said on the RacinBoys.com live broadcast. "I love racing in front of all you great fans. It's an amazing atmosphere in here when it's packed. We want to maybe get a Saturday victory this year, but we'll keep taking Friday's when we can get them."
Although Grant led all 25 laps of the A-Main feature, his path to victory lane didn't go unchallenged. Tanner Thorson stalked Grant for much of the race as they worked their way through heavy lapped traffic. Thorson was able to reach the right rear of Grant's No. 4A but was never able to make the pass for the lead due to the slower traffic in front of him.
Thorson, the winner of Tuesday's VIROC race, earned himself a starting spot in Saturday's A-Main feature with his runner-up finish.
"I think everybody was fast there the way the track was. Even the squirrels in the back were fast, just in the way," Thorson said. "But we had an awesome car. I can't thank these guys enough. This whole team worked their buts off, and to be able to lock it into the show the first year out is pretty awesome. Congratulations to Justin. He didn't mess up, and that's what it would've took was to mess up. But we're in the show and that's all that matters."
Despite a valiant effort from Thorson, Friday night at the Chili Bowl Nationals was once again all about Justin Grant.
Now, with a fast race car underneath him, Grant is hoping that this is the year that Mr. Friday Night can turn into Mr. Saturday Night and take home the coveted Golden Driller trophy.
"This NOS Energy Drink 4A was just amazing tonight. It was so, so good. I've had the privilege to drive some pretty good race cars in here and none of them as good as that one. I'm really looking forward to Saturday night and I can't thank everyone enough for the opportunity they've given me."
Grant, Thorson and the remainder of the 10 drivers already qualified will now head to the always-entertaining pole shuffle to determine their starting position in Saturday's A-Main. The rest of the drivers in attendance will head to the alphabet soup and be forced to race their way into one of the biggest short track races in the country.
Race fans can find photos, updates and more from Friday night's Chili Bowl action by visiting Speed51.com's Race Day Now coverage.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Evan Canfield
Chili Bowl Nationals Friday A-Main Unofficial Results
1. 4A-Justin Grant, ; 2. 3C-Tanner Thorson, ; 3. 84X-Chad Boat, ; 4. 17S-Ricky Stenhouse Jr, ; 5. 27-Tucker Klaasmeyer, ; 6. 17R-Alex Schutte, ; 7. 21-Daryn Pittman, ; 8. 36-Dave Darland, ; 9. 97K-Spencer Bayston, ; 10. 5G-Grady Chandler, ; 11. 9D-Sean Dodenhoff, ; 12. 54L-Luke Icke, ; 13. 88N-D.J. Netto, ; 14. 19T-Kevin Thomas Jr, ; 15. 95-Chris Andrews, ; 16. 51J-Hunter Schuerenberg, ; 17. 47M-Austin Liggett, ; 18. 19M-Ethan Mitchell, ; 19. 2G-Steve Buckwalter, ; 20. 73X-Shane Cottle, ; 21. 99W-Korey Weyant, ; 22. 1P-Terry Nichols, ; 23. 10B-Kyle Bellm, ; 24. 05-Brad Loyet,