Chili Bowl Nationals: Justin Grant wins Friday night qualifier
Justin Grant showed off the twins in Victory Lane — literally.
After Grant wheeled the No. 39bc Clauson-Marshall Racing ride wire-to-wire for the win in the fourth and final A Feature during qualifying for the Chili Bowl Nationals, he climbed from his car and flashed a picture of his newborns to the camera.
“It’s just amazing to win, especially for this family tonight,” Grant said. “I really feel like I had an amazing week. I had twins. I was just kind of along for the ride on that. My wife did all of that. She told me I had to do this. I had to come down here and run for these guys. And tonight, I was just along for the ride again.
“I feel like I got all the glory this week and there’s so many other people really doing all the hard work.”
Certainly, the 26-year-old did his part on Friday at Tulsa Expo Raceway. He finished third after starting eighth in the third Heat Race — which was red-flagged after polesitter Payton Williams midget vaulted into the air, flipped and landed on the halo of the car. Williams was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for a concussion in a broken nose.
Grant started fifth in the fourth qualifying race and won the 10-lap race to transfer into the feature. The race was slowed by two cautions — both on the first lap. Ace McCarthy spun and collected Holly Shelton in the process. Tanner Thorson took the opportunity to change a tire, then dropped to the rear of the field. JJ Yeley, who started fifth, started smoking on the first lap and was forced to the pits.
The race returned to green with Grant in the lead, Ronnie Gardner maintained second while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. advanced to third with attrition.
Local favorite Daryn Pittman came from eighth and passed Stenhouse for third on Lap 16. Three laps later the Owasso, OK native moved to second — where he finished. Gardner, who started on the front row, finished third to also advance to the A Main on Saturday.
“That bottom is too hard to run, my car was better on the top,” Pittman said. “I said let’s go to the top and it worked I’ve got a really good car and it’s a lot of fun to be behind the wheel.”
Gardner climbed from eighth to second in the ninth Heat Race. He started sixth in the third qualifying race and finished third to advance to the feature.
“Man, I can’t believe this,” Gardner said. “The car was so good all night. It was just up to me not to make any mistakes. We went a little conservative and sure enough the bottom was good early. Pittman went by me and I thought, ‘I’m not just going to let them drive by me.’ So I got up behind him and started running him down there before we got in heavy lapped traffic. Then I was just trying to make my marks. I knew we had a good car to get into the show.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my racing career. I get to sleep in, drink some beer tonight and party with the homies.”
Following the Feature, Grant went on to win the Pizza Express Pole Shuffle and will start first in the A Main for the 2017 Chili Bowl Nationals. Christopher Bell will share the front row.
"We’ll see if we can’t keep it up,” Grant said. “These guys keep making my job easy. If I can keep it up, we’ll be alright."
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