Terre Haute, IN – “I just ran every lap harder than the last one. I figured if I didn’t get it done on the last one, I must need to run this thing harder. Finally, I worked my courage up to run it hard enough to finally get by him.”
Those are the words of Justin Grant who capitalized on a pair of late-race cautions and an “overtime” period to score a last lap USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory Wednesday night during the Dorsett Automotive Don Smith Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track in round four of NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week.
A succession of unfortunate timing led to race leader Chase Stockon’s ultimate misfortune in the final two green-white-checkered restarts. The last of which, Grant drove around Stockon in the second turn and raced to victory for the fourth time with the series this season, taking over the ISW point lead by a mere six points over Stockon and 10 points over 3rd place Brady Bacon with three races remaining over the next three nights.
“We want to win this championship badly,” Grant exclaimed. “I want to win races, I like trophies, I like wheelies, bicycles, running above the cushion and I’m here to make money. This is how I feed my kids. This is how I pay my bills. This is my life. Fortunately, points and dollars earned correlate pretty closely. Tonight, the safe move would’ve been to run second. But, god, I love winning races. So, we said, ‘screw it,’ let’s win this race. We were wide open above the curb getting in, wheelieing, bicycling, and getting trophies.”
Taking a line a car width or two above Stockon just before the first and second yellow near the end of the main event, Grant wasn’t able to get the oomph off turn two to make the move stick. The third time proved to be a charm, however, as the Ione, Calif. lived up to the refrain, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” for his 20th career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car win.
Stockon, the 2016 Don Smith Classic winner, led the opening lap of the 30-lap event before Bacon, himself a two-time Terre Haute winner with the series, charged to the point on the bottom of turn four on the second lap. Grant, starting 4th meanwhile, put his bid in for 2nd, riding the bottom rail between turns three and four to the runner-up spot on the seventh lap.
Bacon had upped his lead to 2.5 seconds when Max Adams suffered a flat right rear tire to bring out the yellow with 12 laps remaining. With the field bunched up for the restart, Bacon’s lead wasn’t long for the world as he slid through the middle of turn one, henceforth opening the door on the bottom for Grant to drive by while Stockon followed suit on the bottom at the exit of turn two to glide into second.
Grant’s run up front was short lived as, just one lap later, Stockon stuck the bottom of turns one and two to snag the lead from Grant. Stockon extended his lead to three-quarters of a second, but that lead tediously dwindled when Grant closed to within a car length trying to make an outside pass in turn two, to no avail. At that point, victory was seemingly in the bag for Stockon as he rounded turn three only to find a yellow flag and the 20th place car of Nate McMillin spun backwards, facing his direction and in motion at the exit of turn four.
By rule, caution periods that occur on the white flag lap will result in a two-lap, green-white-checkered finish. Subsequently, second running Grant and now third-place Windom had an additional opportunity, much to the chagrin of Stockon. The restart was nearly identical to the final lap before the McMillin caution with Grant trying with all his might to get around Stockon who was perfect on the bottom line.
Just as Stockon began to exhale and a feature win seemed imminent, lightning struck again for the Fort Branch, Ind. native as he swept through turn three only to see the yellow once again for the spun car of Dennis Gile in turn two, running 15th at the time.
As the leader, Stockon had to be perfect, especially with the sense of not being able to see the angles of attack with which his closest competitors were utilizing behind him. In essence, Grant, in second, only had to be perfect just this once. After one lap of trailing Stockon around the half-mile on what wound up as being lap 31, Grant got a big run off turn four headed to the white flag.
Being stuck high in the crumbs on the exit of two during his last attempts there, Grant had an alternate plan.
“I entered below the lip and didn’t want to turn over on the lip getting in,” Grant recalled. “The only way this thing’s going to work is if I run right over that lip wide open, get enough bite on entry and drive across the slick and get back to the good stuff off two. And, by god, it worked!”
With Grant tucked right behind Stockon at the start/finish line, the two tagged bumpers. Stockon, now possibly carrying too much speed into turn one, slid straight up to the middle, losing momentum and opening up the expressway at the top for Grant and the bottom for Windom who both raced on by for first and second, respectively.
Grant executed the last half-lap of the distance as the frontrunner, going on to win his second career series race at Terre Haute by a margin of two car lengths, or 0.257 of a second, over Windom, Stockon, C.J. Leary and Shane Cottle.
On this particular evening, the late cautions which caused misfortune and much consternation for some, happened to play into the hands of Grant who made his third and final effort the payoff pitch.
“Tonight, it played in our favor, but sometime this season, it won’t,” Grant admitted. “It’s just one of those things. Tonight, it didn’t play in Chase’s favor, but at some point this year, it will. Like it or not, it’s part of the game and you’ve got to play the game how it’s played. We know what the gig is coming in and that’s part of the gig. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your favorite part, it’s part of it. And you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
In other notes, during Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying, C.J. Leary earned his 27th career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car fast qualifying time, equaling him with both Dave Steele and Chase Stockon for 12th on the all-time list.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 29, 2020 – Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week / Dorsett Automotive Don Smith Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT ONE: 1. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-19.933; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-20.126; 3. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-20.152; 4. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-20.156; 5. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-20.162; 6. Chase Johnson, 68, Thomas-20.351; 7. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-20.369; 8. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-20.389; 9. Tyler Thomas, 17GP, Dutcher-20.506; 10. Clinton Boyles, 57, Hazen-20.506; 11. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-20.606; 12. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-20.683; 13. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-20.715; 14. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-20.739; 15. Chris Phillips, 6p, Phillips-20.860; 16. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-20.965; 17. Brandon Morin, 98, Morin-21.074; 18. Tye Mihocko, 5T, Mihocko-21.080; 19. Anthony D’Alessio, 01, D’Alessio-21.138; 20. Kendall Ruble, 17K, Ruble/Martin-21.161; 21. Steve Thomas, 27, Thomas-22.182.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT TWO: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-19.974; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-20.120; 3. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Team AZ-20.357; 4. Dennis Gile, 13, Gile-20.377; 5. Carson Short, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-20.380; 6. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-20.582; 7. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-20.601; 8. Bill Rose, 6, Rose-20.791; 9. Jadon Rogers, 61m, Edwards-20.837; 10. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-20.924; 11. Anton Hernandez, 5, Baldwin-20.974; 12. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-21.012; 13. Max Guilford, 79BT, Goodnight-21.014; 14. Dustin Smith, 77, LG-21.116; 15. Nate McMillin, 24, McMillin-21.128; 16. Mitch Wissmiller, 29, RMB-21.206; 17. Kurt Gross, 1x, Gross-21.311; 18. Sterling Cling, 34, Cling-21.351; 19. Logan Hupp, 69JM, Gindling-21.485; 20. Chayse Hayhurst, 20, Hayhurst-21.577; 21. Dakota Jackson, 17, On The Gass-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Brandon Mattox, 3. Dave Darland, 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Tyler Thomas, 7. Logan Seavey, 8. Chris Phillips, 9. Brandon Morin, 10. Anthony D’Alessio, 11. Steve Thomas. 2:47.870
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Charles Davis Jr., 4. Kyle Cummins, 5., Clinton Boyles, 6. Chase Johnson, 7. Matt Westfall, 8. Tye Mihocko, 9. Kendall Ruble, 10. Dustin Clark. 2:45.154
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Shane Cottle, 2. Carson Short, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Nate McMillin, 6. Anton Hernandez, 7. Jadon Rogers, 8. Max Guilford, 9. Logan Hupp, 10. Dakota Jackson, 11. Kurt Gross. 2:50.048
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Max Adams, 3. Dennis Gile, 4. Dustin Smith, 5. Mitch Wissmiller, 6. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 7. Bill Rose, 8. Sterling Cling, 9. Chayse Hayhurst. 2:50.156
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Dustin Clark, 2. Brandon Morin, 3. Tye Mihocko, 4. Mitch Wissmiller, 5. Kendall Ruble, 6. Sterling Cling, 7. Anthony D’Alessio, 8. Kurt Gross, 9. Chayse Hayhurst, 10. Steve Thomas. 3:42.874
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Clinton Boyles, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Matt Westfall, 6. Nate McMillin, 7. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 8. Chris Phillips, 9. Anton Hernandez, 10. Max Guilford, 11. Jadon Rogers, 12. Bill Rose, 13. Tye Mihocko, 14. Dustin Clark, 15. Brandon Morin, 16. Tyler Thomas, 17. Mitch Wissmiller. 4:21.266
FEATURE: (32 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (4), 2. Chris Windom (7), 3. Chase Stockon (2), 4. C.J. Leary (6), 5. Shane Cottle (8), 6. Brady Bacon (3), 7. Logan Seavey (10), 8. Kevin Thomas Jr. (5), 9. Dave Darland (13), 10. Robert Ballou (19), 11. Kyle Cummins (14), 12. Jake Swanson (1), 13. Charles Davis Jr. (17), 14. Carson Short (11), 15. Brandon Mattox (16), 16. Matt Westfall (20), 17. Nate McMillin (22), 18. Clinton Boyles (15), 19. Dennis Gile (9), 20. Dustin Smith (21), 21. Chase Johnson (12), 22. Max Adams (18). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Chase Stockon, Laps 2-18 Brady Bacon, Lap 19 Justin Grant, Laps 20-31 Chase Stockon, Lap 32 Justin Grant.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1,034, 2-Brady Bacon-950, 3-Chris Windom-929, 4-Chase Stockon-927, 5-C.J. Leary-923, 6-Carson Short-820, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-791, 8-Dave Darland-680, 9-Brandon Mattox-610, 10-Logan Seavey-597.
NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-291, 2-Chase Stockon-285, 3-Brady Bacon-281, 4-C.J. Leary-265, 5-Chris Windom-260, 6-Logan Seavey-244, 7-Kyle Cummins-238, 8-Carson Short-225, 9-Shane Cottle-210, 10-Robert Ballou-193.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-79, 2-Tanner Thorson-58, 3-Logan Seavey-57, 4-Justin Grant-52, 5-Andrew Layser-44, 6-Robert Ballou-43, 7-Daison Pursley-42, 8-Thomas Meseraull-38, 9-Jerry Coons Jr.-36, 10-Shane Cottle-35.
NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Robert Ballou-24, 2-Shane Cottle-23, 3-Matt Westfall-17, 4-Kyle Cummins-14, 5-Thomas Meseraull-14, 6-Chris Windom-12, 7-Justin Grant-11, 8-Chase Johnson-10, 9-Carson Short-8, 10-A.J. Hopkins-8.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 30, 2020 – Lincoln Park Speedway – Putnamville, Indiana – 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval – NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week