Justin Grant Unstoppable On 2017 Chili Bowl Vacuworx Qualifying Night
November 8th, 2016 by Wade Huisman
TULSA, Okla. (January 13, 2017) The final day of qualifying for the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire was one filled with emotion as California’s Justin Grant found Victory Lane for the first time in Preliminary Night competition; and did it in a Clauson-Marshall mount one year after Bryan Clauson took his final checkered flag atop the clay of the Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“No, I can’t even try,” said Grant of putting the win into words. “But I’m not going to say I’m carrying on (Bryan Clauson’s) legacy at all. That would be not even a chance. He was incredible. He was such a big deal. I guess we didn’t really appreciate how big of a deal he was until we lost him. It’s incredible to see how many people are behind him and behind that. It is a lot pressure.”
Making three first time winners in four nights of racing, Grant was the class of the field with all 25 laps of the Vacuworx Night feature credited to his torrid pace.
Caution following the first lap that saw Ace McCarthy spinning and collecting Holly Shelton, Grant was stalked by fellow Californian, Ronnie Gardner. Keeping pace with the No. 39BC, the pair broke away from the running order.
With the cushion coming in just after the race’s mid-point, some of the fastest lap times being turned were by Daryn Pittman. Coming from eighth, the No. 21 wheeled hard on the high line. Having lost pace with the leader in traffic, Gardner worked the low line while Pittman stuck true to the wall to take over the runner-up spot on Lap 18.
Remaining under green flag conditions, Pittman was able to close the gap, but it wouldn’t be enough to run down Justin Grant. With a silver lined Friday night, Pittman will make the call in his seventh Chili Bowl A-Feature since 1999.
The only other Oklahoman locked into the Feature so far, Pittman commented on what it would mean to match the feat of Andy Hillenburg, “I was here and I watched it. It was one of the best Chili Bowls I’ve ever seen so it’d mean a lot. Andy (Hillenburg) was a big hero of mine I got to watch growing up and it was a blast as a young kid watching him win this race so I’d love to be the one to do it.”
Ronnie Gardner would hold on to third to earn his first A-Feature start on Saturday night. The second Six-Eight Motorsports entry to lock into the big dance, Gardner, commented about the team’s success in the 2017 edition Chili Bowl.
“It’s cool man. I think the budget of our team is like a fifth of a lot of the guys out here so that’s pretty cool just for this midget man. I don’t think I will be able to wipe the smile off the face all the home.”
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. came up to fourth from seventh with California’s Michael Faccinto completing the top-five after starting ninth. Damion Gardner from 12th was sixth with D.J. Netto seventh. The two California drivers were followed by Indiana royalty as 15th starting Dave Darland grabbed eighth. Fighting through the field, Tim McCreadie show from 18th to ninth with Oklahoma’s Wayne Johnson finishing tenth.
Followed by the #BCForever Pole Shuffle powered by Pizza Express to set to the Top 12 in Saturday’s A-Main, Justin Grant pulled off his second victory of the night by defeating Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell. The 11 rounds began with Zach Daum winning over Colby Copeland. Leary trumped Daum in the next round to face Ronnie Gardner who went on to race Daryn Pittman. Winning the three lap dash, Pittman retired with mechanical issues, leaving Danny Stratton to face Jake Swanson. Downing Stratton, Swanson was defeated in the next round by Tyler Cortney who but away Travis Berryhill before spinning while racing Justin Grant for the runner-up spot.
Through four nights of races, a record setting 365 drivers have checked in for the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire. The record far exceeds the one set in 2016 with 335.
At the close of Friday’s Vacuworx Qualifying Night, the Fastenal Flip Count has reached 33.