MERCED, Calif. – Throughout November, Justin Grant has repeatedly shown how to win in the west.
Traveling south, east and north the first 31 races on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship schedule this season, the California driver managed just one single victory.
On Tuesday at Merced Speedway, Grant won for the fourth time this season, including three of the last seven series events. It’s also Grant’s second in a row following his Hangtown 100 victory at nearby Placerville Speedway.
Grant outran Tanner Thorson in the 30-lap main event, securing the spot on lap six, then taking control of the preferred racing groove to stave off Thorson.
It’s Grant’s 12th USAC win of the year, tying Thorson for the most in the series.
“I’ve had a great car all year, but I really think we just finally got a little bit of momentum,” Grant said. ‘’This series is so tough; everybody’s so, so close. Just catching a little bit of momentum can change your whole year; it can turn your whole year around, and we’ve seen that here.”
Grant began his race from the outside of the front row, but it was Thorson who gained early control.
A lap-six maneuver through turn three and a great drive off the exit of turn four put Grant ahead at the start-finish line.
“The first 10 laps, I had what was probably the best car I’ve ever driven,” Grant said. “This thing was just wide open, and I was hardly moving my hands.”
Grant extended his lead to one second but battling traffic didn’t make it all that easy.
“Just watching lapped traffic, I was kind of running the top down there, then entering in the middle and coming off the bottom, and it got to where I couldn’t catch lapped cars anymore,” Grant said. “I wasn’t closing on them and I couldn’t really get around them even if they were slow or just on the bottom, so I knew if I just stayed on the bottom, he was going to have to be a lot better than me to get around me, and I thought our car was good enough, so it wasn’t going to be a problem.”
Thorson pulled to Grant’s inside on lap 21, but subsequently clipped the berm in turns one and two and that hurt his momentum.
“I tried to run the top a little bit when I was leading down in three and four and tried to peel off,” Thorson stated. “The fastest lane was on the bottom, so it would’ve taken a lot. I got to him at one point getting into turn three and got the left front on the berm and shot my chances right there.”
Thorson came on strong one more time with eight laps but another run-in with the turns one and two berm proved costly.
Grant held on for a .515-second win over Thorson, with Buddy Kofoid, Emerson Axsom and Cannon McIntosh filing behind.
“I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world, I tell you what,” Grant said. “I’ve got a smoking hot wife, I’ve got great kids, I get to come out here and drive race cars and lappers just seem to move out of the way.
“I’m catching inverts all the time,” Grant added. “I might be the luckiest guy in the world. I’ll take them how I can get them anyway and I’ll take all the help I can get. I love driving midgets and I love racing this car.”
Kofoid finished third and exited Merced with a 41-point lead ahead of Chris Windom, who lost crucial ground finishing 11th. Two races remain in the USAC midget title fight.
World of Outlaws driver Carson Macedo set a new one-lap track record with his lap of 11.714 seconds in qualifying.
Engine troubles caused NASCAR Cup Series Kyle Larson to miss the main event.