HomeRace Track NewsIowaSpoiler Alert! Grant Wins 50th USAC Sprint Race at Knoxville

Spoiler Alert! Grant Wins 50th USAC Sprint Race at Knoxville

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By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Knoxville, Iowa (May 31, 2024)………Mired in one of the most prolonged slumps of his career, Justin Grant played all the right notes, keys and chords in capturing his 50th career USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship victory during Friday night’s Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash opener at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway.

Over his past nine series starts this year, Grant (Ione, Calif.) had finished 13th or worse in seven of them and had trudged through the last month’s schedule with an average finish of 15.7. Entering Knoxville, the two-time reigning series champion had fallen to eighth in points, a staggering 256 markers out of the lead.

Things were seemingly out of whack on the trusty, TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – Bow Foundation – TOPP Industries/Maxim/Kistler Chevy. What started at the shop led to struggles on the track, which soon turned into a major headache and soul searching for all involved.

“We had some things a little goofy,” Grant admitted. “I work on these things every day during the week, and we had some instrument issues. Things were not the way they should be. But I’m very fortunate that two weeks feels like a slump. We’re very fortunate we’ve got a rocket ship of a racecar. I feel like we’ve got it back and I feel like I’m a racecar driver again.”

On Friday night, Grant led the opening 13 laps of the 25-lap main event before Brady Bacon made his way into the lead for the 14th and 15th circuits. Yet, following a caution, Grant steadied the course, righted the ship and steered his way back to the front with a slide job for the lead on the lap 16 restart. From there, Grant withstood the challenges of Chase Johnson and Bacon late to earn his fifth USAC National Sprint Car victory of the season, equaling point leader Logan Seavey in that department.

Grant’s triumphant performance was his second at Knoxville’s 1/2-mile dirt oval after scoring back in 2017, and it placed him as one of just four drivers to reach 50 career USAC National Sprint Car feature wins. Grant now trails only Dave Darland (62), Brady Bacon (54) and Tom Bigelow (52).

Although it was certainly easy to get down on himself during this stretch, Grant appeared as if he never wavered on that front throughout the course of Friday night. In fact, nobody ever stopped believing in him while holding on to that feeling. Well, most people at least.

“This team never stops believing in me,” Grant acknowledged. “My wife, Ashley, never stops believing in me. My kids do. They’ve been telling me how good Logan (Seavey) and Brady (Bacon) are every week, and I was getting awfully sick of that. So, it feels awfully good to get back into victory lane here.”

Starting on the outside of the front row, Grant led the entire first half of the race while Bacon perpetually gave chase. By lap nine, the two frontrunners were weaving their way through lapped traffic and escaping from the rest of the field in a two-car breakaway.

“I was good early there,” Grant remembered. “I felt really comfortable, then as this place got slick and curbed up, it got scary. Knoxville is scary. It’s fast. It’s almost off-camber up there; you’re up on the curb and there’s little weird holes in the cushion.”

On lap 13, Bacon took his first real shot at Grant in turn three, but his slider attempt just missed. Bacon managed to stay right in line with Grant, however, as the pair went wheel-to-wheel momentarily before Grant edged ahead off turn four.

Nonetheless, Bacon kept his foot in it, and by the end of the front straightway on lap 14, he’d pulled even with Grant before sliding up across the racetrack in front of Grant to secure the spot. One lap later, the yellow flag was displayed for fifth running C.J. Leary who slowed suddenly with a disconnected left rear shock that had sent a shower of sparks trailing off the rear end of the car. Earlier in the night, Leary became the fourth driver to reach 50 career fast qualifying times in USAC National Sprint Car competition.

The red flag was waved on the ensuing lap 16 restart as Wesley Smith (9th) contacted the turn two fence, which sent him barrel rolling several times before coming to a rest. He ultimately climbed out of his car but was out of the race.

And just when things seemed down and out for Grant, he wasted no time conjuring up a new plan and putting himself in the perfect frame of mind to get back to where he wanted to be for the restart.

“I kind of got to sitting down in the seat, trying not to crash the thing,” Grant recalled. “Brady slid me, and I had a lap or two of the mopes, feeling like ‘we’re not going to win again.’ Then we got rolling through lapped traffic and I thought ‘I should sit up and drive this thing, you’ve still got a shot.’ We got a yellow, and I was able to slide him there on the restart.”

Grant attacked the bottom of turn one and slid past Bacon for the lead with just 10 laps remaining. Chase Johnson, making his first series start of the year, glided along the bottom past both Daison Pursley and Bacon to rise from fourth to second.

All the while, Grant had pulled away to a 1.3 second lead until the final incident of the evening necessitated a red flag with just three laps to go. Dakota Earls (25th) banged the turn two cushion, which swapped him around 90 degrees as his left side wheels dug in and sent him barrel-rolling six times before the roller coaster ride abruptly ended. Earls climbed out of the car under his own power.

Meanwhile, precipitation began to fall from the sky. Under the yellow flag, the field was directed to buzz the track to save it from being swallowed up by mother nature. After a few minutes, the moisture in the air had subsided and the final sprint to the checkered was able to resume.

On the restart, second running Johnson’s left rear tire was noticeably flat as he attempted to take one final stab amid his pursuit of a first USAC National Sprint Car win. However, over time, he drifted back to fifth and Bacon was now once again Grant’s most ardent challenger, setting the stage for the two winningest driver/team combos in USAC National Sprint Car history to duke it out for the win.

Bacon took one last run at Grant in turn three on the final lap but could only muster up enough to briefly pull even. Grant powered off the top of turn four to defeat Bacon by a scant three car length margin – 0.247 seconds to be precise – leading Grant to remark, “If you come to Knoxville and you beat Brady Bacon, I feel like you’ve done something.”

Pursley came home third while 2023 Corn Belt Clash winner Jake Swanson notched fourth after starting 13th. Johnson delivered his best career USAC National Sprint Car result to date by rounding out the top-five.

Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) resumed his incredible record of achievement with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Knoxville during his career. In 10 career starts dating back to 2010, Bacon has finished inside the top-two in eight of those starts. On Friday night, he recorded his fourth consecutive podium finish with the series and his second consecutive runner-up result at Knoxville aboard his Dynamics, Inc./Next Level Metal – Davis Brothers Trucking – Hutson John Deere/Triple X/Rider Chevy.

Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) was a force once again as he recorded his third consecutive third-place finish with the series in his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Oak Craft Elegant Cabinetry/DRC/1-Way Chevy. Over his past seven USAC National Sprint Car starts this season, Pursley hasn’t finished worse than sixth.

J.J. Yeley (Phoenix, Ariz.) earned his first top-10 in USAC National Sprint Car competition since July of 2009 during the Indiana Sprint Week round at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. Yes, that was only three starts ago, albeit separated by 15 years, but Yeley was impressive once again on Friday night. Starting 23rd, Yeley finished 10th to earn hard charger honors for the night at Knoxville in the driver’s seat of his Yeley Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – CK Electric – Apache Transport/Spike/Stanton Chevy.

=====================

USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 31, 2024 – Knoxville Raceway – Knoxville, Iowa – Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval

HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-18.807; 2. Daison Pursley, 21AZ, Team AZ-18.976; 3. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-19.034; 4. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-19.086; 5. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-19.090; 6. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-19.102; 7. Xavier Doney, 74, Doney/Lawson-19.138; 8. Wesley Smith, 44, Smith-19.163; 9. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3R, Rock Steady-19.195; 10. Chase Johnson, 4J, Ford-19.265; 11. Jake Swanson, 2B, 2B Racing-19.389; 12. Joey Amantea, 88J, JPA-19.405; 13. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-19.432; 14. Jadon Rogers, 17GP, Dutcher-19.485; 15. Logan Seavey, 57, Abacus-19.489; 16. Kyle Cummins, 3p, Petty-19.571; 17. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-19.620; 18. Logan Calderwood, 73, Ford-19.652; 19. Korbyn Hayslett, 1H, Hayslett-19.716; 20. Hunter Maddox, 24m, Maddox-19.805; 21. Kobe Simpson, 21K, Simpson-19.921; 22. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-19.986; 23. J.J. Yeley, 2, Yeley-20.013; 24. A.J. Johnson, 93, Germar-20.061; 25. Dakota Earls, 15E, Earls-20.207; 26. Eric Schulz, 38, Grein-20.332; 27. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-NT (Time of 18.777 disallowed due to an illegal left rear tire).

SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Johnson, 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Xavier Doney, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. C.J. Leary, 6. Kyle Cummins, 7. Charles Davis Jr., 8. Korbyn Hayslett, 9. Dakota Earls. 2:41.436

ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Matt Westfall, 2.

Wesley Smith, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Jadon Rogers, 5. Justin Grant, 6. Jake Swanson, 7. J.J. Yeley, 8. Eric Schulz, 9. Hunter Maddox. 2:44.986

T.J. FORGED / CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Joey Amantea, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Carson Garrett, 5. Mitchel Moles, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Kobe Simpson, 8. Logan Calderwood, 9. A.J. Johnson. NT

FEATURE: (25 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (2), 2. Brady Bacon (4), 3. Daison Pursley (5), 4. Jake Swanson (13), 5. Chase Johnson (7), 6. Xavier Doney (10), 7. Mitchel Moles (1), 8. Logan Seavey (8), 9. Kyle Cummins (17), 10. J.J. Yeley (23), 11. Robert Ballou (15), 12. Matt Westfall (9), 13. C.J. Leary (6), 14. Carson Garrett (26), 15. Kevin Thomas Jr. (12), 16. Hunter Maddox (20), 17. Jadon Rogers (16), 18. Joey Amantea (14), 19. Chase Stockon (3), 20. Charles Davis Jr. (22), 21. Korbyn Hayslett (19), 22. Kobe Simpson (21), 23. Logan Calderwood (18), 24. Eric Schulz (25), 25. Dakota Earls (24), 26. Wesley Smith (11). NT

 

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-13 Justin Grant, Laps 14-15 Brady Bacon, Laps 16-25 Justin Grant.

 

**A.J. Johnson flipped during the third heat. Wesley Smith flipped on lap 16 of the feature. Dakota Earls flipped on lap 23 of the feature.

 

USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-1053, 2-C.J. Leary-947, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-946, 4-Daison Pursley-911, 5-Brady Bacon-892, 6-Justin Grant-816, 7-Kyle Cummins-804, 8-Robert Ballou-802, 9-Mitchel Moles-790, 10-Chase Stockon-762.

 

OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-81, 2-Robert Ballou-73, 3-Logan Seavey-69, 4-Daison Pursley-67, 5-Joey Amantea-54, 6-Carson Garrett-50, 7-Brady Bacon-46, 8-Kyle Cummins-41, 9-Matt Westfall-41, 10-Kevin Thomas Jr.-38.

 

CORN BELT CLASH PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Carson Garrett-17, 2-J.J. Yeley-14, 3-Jake Swanson-9, 4-Kyle Cummins-8, 5-Brady Bacon-5, 6-Daison Pursley-5, 7-Xavier Doney-5, 8-Chase Johnson-4, 9-Robert Ballou-4, 10-Hunter Maddox-4.

 

NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 1, 2024 – Knoxville Raceway – Knoxville, Iowa – Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval

 

 

CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:

 

Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Chase Stockon (19.086)

 

Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: C.J. Leary (18.807)

 

Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chase Johnson

 

Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Matt Westfall

 

T.J. Forged / Car IQ Third Heat Winner: Logan Seavey

 

Hard Charger: J.J. Yeley (23rd to 10th)

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