Justin Grant had quite a weekend of racing in Ventura, California. He won the 81st annual ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature on Saturday night, then earned the Mike Curb USAC National Drivers Title on Monday, taking this esteemed honor for the second straight year and third occasion overall.
Saturday night’s 98-lap National Midget contest on the 1/5-mile high-banked clay oval located at Ventura County’s fairgrounds was no easy task for Grant, who qualified 13th in the field of 28 racers. He was one of five drivers to pace the field during this race, which he led twice. Picking his way through the field, after leading a single tour at the 3/4 point of the race, Grant took the lead for the final time from Tanner Thorson, who finished 19th, on the 84th lap,
Grant wasn’t challenged again to the close, where he finished ahead of 2021 NASCAR champion Kyle Larson (who started 22nd), Bryant Wideman, Jake Andreotti and pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr., with Logan Seavey, Alex Bright, Emerson Axsom, Carson Macedo and Jason McDougal completing the top 10. Of the other lap leaders, reigning consecutive USAC National Midget champ Buddy Kofoid, who qualified second, ended up 23rd after leading the first 44 laps, Cannon McIntosh took 20th, Macedo was ninth, while Thorson ended up in 19th place.
Staying out of trouble was the key for Grant, who had not, until this year, finished inside the top five in each of his three career Turkey Night starts. A fan of the race, Grant said his “dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year. This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one,” he said. Grant neatly bookended his National Midget 2022 run, winning the first and last events of the season.
To top off his magical weekend, being named Mike Curb USAC National Drivers Champion on Monday placed Justin Grant in some enviable company, including Dave Darland, Tracy Hines, J.J. Yeley, Jay Drake, Josh Wise, Jerry Coons Jr., Cole Whitt, Bryan Clauson, Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom. This was his third time earning this award; Grant took it in 2017 as well as last year.
Grant, 32, is only the fourth driver to win the Curb honor three times, joining Yeley, Clauson and Hines, the latter having earned this driving title four times in his stellar career. In a total of 82 combined USAC national starts in the 2022 season, the Ione, Calif. native earned a $10,000 bonus after totaling 4,991 points, more than a thousand points over his closest competitor, Logan Seavey.
“Driving with USAC specifically, is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” Grant admitted. “To be in the position to run all these races and to do this is amazing, and I want to do as much of it as I can. I’m really fortunate to have great car owners, great partners and great crews, and the ability to go out and run all these races is really on them, with how much they provide for me and how hard they work to keep me going, beating up and down the road.”
The three teams that have helped Grant to this level of success are Hemelgarn Racing in Silver Crown, TOPP Motorsports for Sprint Car and RMS Racing on the National Midget tour. “I get to come in and be the hero at the end of the night,” Grant mused. “It’s really a lot all about them and my wife at home taking care of the kids and holding the house down while I’m out on the road racing.”
Mike Curb has endowed this reward since the 1999 USAC season, and it’s now in its 24th year. Grant, along with champions throughout the USAC trail, will be honored in Indianapolis next month at USAC’s Night of Champions, held during the annual Performance Racing Industry show.