By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
GAS CITY, IN – Less than 24 hours after what he termed was a “toolbox issue” that put him behind eight ball just prior to Tuesday’s “Indiana Midget Week” opening night feature, Justin Grant found the ultimate redemption by scoring his first USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget victory of the season in round two of the series Wednesday at Gas City I-69 Speedway.
One way of looking at the six-night stretch of consecutive races that is “Indiana Midget Week” is as a grueling physical and mental test that can take a toll, especially when things don’t go as anticipated. On the other side of the coin, an individual can look at the week as chance to immediately redeem yourself again and again, night-after-night, if an issue happens to arise along the journey.
Either way, there’s no time to dwell on the past. Another opportunity for success is just around the corner. That’s the path the Ione, California driver and his RAMS Racing crew chose to take.
“Last night, it’s all over and everybody’s upset,” Grant recalled. “But, that’s why there’s more than one race a year. Let’s go to the carwash. Let’s do our jobs. Let’s act like we’re ready to win tomorrow.”
“What’s great about this team is its people constantly building you up,” Grant explained. “Last night, I had a huge blunder on my part. I really let my car owners and my team down in our race prep. But the first text message I got after the race was from Rick Young who said, ‘I’m not upset in the least. Every time I see that racecar on the track, I’m proud of it. Go win tomorrow.’ Having that kind of support system and that kind of backing is huge. Just being able to shake that night off, nobody’s more worried about it than you are, so just shake it off and go do your job tomorrow.”
When that tomorrow arrived on Wednesday night, Grant went to work from the word “go,” leading the troops into turn one from his outside front row starting spot. Meanwhile, pre-race favorite Kyle Larson, who started fifth, was shuffled back to ninth on the opening lap, forcing him into playing catchup mode for much of the 30-lap event.
Following a lap three caution for Jesse Colwell, who stopped in the infield grass at the bottom of turn one, Grant knew he had a good car. One of those indicators came from an unlikely source over the one-way radio.
“I felt really good out of the gate,” Grant said. “It was a little tight, which was a good thing, but the track really came to us right out of the gate more or less. After that first caution, (USAC Race Director) Kirk Spridgeon said, ‘alright, hustle around’ to the second-place car. I thought we must be way out there. It got me a bit worried because I thought we were too good too early. If this thing goes away, we might be in trouble.”
There was no indication of that happening any time soon as Grant proceeded to click off his best laps of the race, just less than a tenth off his qualifying time. Grant opened his lead to roughly eight car lengths over Jason McDougal nearing the midway point as the two lone past IMW champs collided at the exit of turn four while battling for eighth. Shane Golobic, the 2017 champ, and Jerry Coons, Jr., the 2007 titlist, made contact with Golobic inheriting the worst end of the deal, stopping, and necessitating a yellow flag.
One lap following the ensuing restart, on the 16th circuit, March “Shamrock Classic” winner Cannon McIntosh slipped into second under McDougal in turn four. Moments later, Colwell spun to a rest in turn four to bring out the yellow. That moment seemed to flip a switch for a pair of previous Gas City IMW winners in Michael Pickens (2017) and Larson (2013).