AVON, Ind. — Justin Grant will be among the first to tell fans he wasn’t looking toward the new year expecting to run a full USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series season.
However, when he was approached by Dave and Matt Estep of RMS Racing, the conversation that ensued wasn’t one Grant could have anticipated.
The end result was a chance to chase the USAC national midget championship in a Toyota-powered Spike Chassis for RMS alongside Thomas Meseraull. In Grant’s eyes, it offered him a bit of a reset after two years of racing midgets part time with Rick Young’s RAMS Racing operation.
“I hadn’t really wanted to do the midget deal full time because I’d kind of gotten burnt out on it a little bit,” Grant admitted. “So I went and did the RAMS thing and it was perfect. I could go and run it when I wanted to, and it was really, really ideal. I had a lot of fun doing it for the last couple of years; it was kind of a perfect storm for the longest time for me. I started thinking that I could go full-time midget racing again this year, but with the RAMS stuff — taking care of things and running the team and doing it in the limited capacity that we did — it would’ve been very hard to do it full time, running the whole (USAC) tour.
“When this deal with the Esteps presented itself, it was a good opportunity to do that again,” Grant continued. “I talked to Rick (Young) and Jeff (Taylor) and they were in agreement and on board and excited for me to try and run a for championship and all that, which is good. I really like the RMS guys and they’re great friends of mine. But my hope with RAMS is that we’ll continue to have a relationship in racing, even if I’m not driving their midget at this particular time.”
Grant’s two-year stint in the RAMS Racing No. 4a produced a Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary night victory in 2019, as well as an Indiana Midget Week victory at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway that summer and a second USAC win in May of this year at Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway.
He, Young and Taylor — from team sponsor Rockwell Security — had a lot of laughs and solid success despite not traveling up and down the road with the USAC regulars.
What sparked the change to RMS?
“An opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Grant explained.
“To have done a lot of the work on the RAMS cars in the past couple years, we’re so proud of that, but this deal and the people the Esteps have surrounding them allows me to put a little extra focus back into driving the car, which is always exciting,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to getting to 2021 and working with Donnie (Gentry) and Dave and Matt and Thomas. It’s really an exciting time for us.”
Asked if he felt the RAMS squad could have gone full time had he expressed a desire to do so, Grant offered an affirmative, but noted, “it would have taken a lot” to make that arrangement happen.
“I think that if I would have been adamant that that’s what I wanted to do, I feel like those guys would have tried to find a way to make that work,” Grant explained. “But we just weren’t really ever set up as a team to do that. We were set up to be a small operation, and to come in and hit where we thought we could win and then go back home, you know? So we just were never really built with that in mind or as a goal.
“I think those guys would have tried to make that work if possible, but this also worked out really well and everybody was OK with it and on the same page.”
As he looks ahead to the new season, Grant is confident he can fight among the best to win next year’s USAC national midget title, but that isn’t the only thing on his mind.
The Ione, Calif., native and longtime USAC veteran is feeling a renewed push toward trying to secure USAC’s Triple Crown by winning titles in each of the sanctioning body’s three national divisions.
He finally captured the USAC Silver Crown Series championship this season during a COVID-19 pandemic-shortened campaign, as well as contended down the stretch for the USAC national sprint car crown.
A midget title would complete the second leg of the trifecta for Grant, and he hopes to achieve that.
“I’ve been close to a handful of times on the sprint car side, and that’s one that I really want badly. I’m going to do everything in my power to get that one here as soon as I can, but this new deal with RMS definitely opens that (Triple Crown) idea up again, as far as having one of them,” Grant admitted. “A handful of guys are in the hunt right now for championships on the Silver Crown side … with the pavement aspect of that series, there aren’t a lot of guys right now that do that and run dirt sprint cars and dirt midgets. So it puts you in a smaller group of guys that are possible candidates for it.
“I’m really excited to go and chase the other two (legs of the Triple Crown). If we can get a midget title next year, that would be fantastic,” Grant noted. “That’s their (RMS’) goal as a team. And the sprint car title is something that I’ve been close to in the past and I’m still really, really aiming for. But we’ll just take this all one step at a time and see where it takes us.”