Starting from the outside of the front row, Justin Grant powered into the lead heading into the first turn and never relinquished the lead on the way to winning the Friday’s Driven 2 Save Lives Qualifying Night feature event to advance to Saturday’s A Main feature at the 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
The victory gave Toyota a sweep of the week’s preliminary night feature events. In addition, Toyota drivers earned eight of the 10 positions that advanced directly into Saturday night’s feature event where the manufacturer will be looking for its seventh consecutive Chili Bowl win.
Grant, in his first race with the RMS Racing team, was dominant throughout the 30-lap event, going straight to the lead running the high side into turn one on the opening lap. From there on out, only yellow flags were able to slow him through much of the race as he stretched his lead out to more than three seconds on multiple occasions. He would run into heavy lapped traffic late in the race, but was able to maneuver anywhere on the track in dicing between them, despite a rear tire that was losing air pressure in the late going.
“RMS brought a bunch of great race cars and I think every one of us finished in the top-five in the A Mains this week,” said Grant. “I’m proud to be out there representing NOS Energy Drinks, Delco Wheels and everyone on our car. The Toyota motor screams in that thing. They absolutely rip. We were pretty fast out of the gate and we kept fine-tuning all week. We were really good there in the feature. We were pretty comfortable, but when we got into lapped traffic, it got pretty thick.”
Tanner Thorson turned in some of the most impressive drives of the day in finishing fourth, despite flipping his car early in the opening heat race. The Dave Mac Motorsports driver started the C Main from the fifth spot and climbed up to third to advance to the B, where he went from 15th to second to advance to the A Main. He then proceeded to charge from the 20th position all the way up to second to earn a spot in tomorrow’s B Main.
Also earning top-10 finishes were Jesse Love, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Thursday, and Aaron Reutzel, who earned seventh and eighth, respectively.
This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals features 309 entries - each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s “A Main” feature event.