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Grant Wins BC39 after Fierce Fight with Teammate

Sunday, October 1, 2023 Paul Kelly, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Justin Grant

California racer Justin Grant earned $20,039 for the victory Saturday night at The Dirt Track at IMS after winning his preliminary feature Friday night.

Justin Grant, a childhood friend and longtime competitor of event namesake Bryan Clauson, prevailed in a fierce duel with teammate Thomas Meseraull to win the fifth running of the Driven2SaveLives BC39 feature race Saturday night at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Grant, from Ione, California, earned $20,039 for the victory in the 39-lap USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature that honors late USAC champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Clauson while increasing awareness of and participation in the Indiana Donor Network and Drive2SaveLives. Grant also won the preliminary feature Friday night on the quarter-mile dirt oval inside Turn 3 of IMS.

“He was an awfully good race driver, great person, and it’s an honor to race here in his memory,” Grant said of Clauson, who died in August 2016 after a racing accident. “To come in here and win at IMS, to win a race for Bryan Clauson, everything in his honor, it really means a lot to me.”

Pole sitter Emerson Axsom finished second in the No. 68 Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports car, while Logan Seavey placed third in the No. 57 Abacus Racing car.

Grant won by a comfortable 2.094 seconds even as he navigated heavy lapped traffic over the closing laps. But as with many statistics in racing, that margin of victory was deceptive.

Halfway through the feature, teammates Grant and Meseraull were engaged in a ferocious race for the top spot, nearly colliding numerous times and probably causing heartburn for RMS Racing owner Dave Estep. Grant had climbed from the fourth starting spot to duel for the lead against Meseraull, who won the Thursday night preliminary feature and started second in tonight’s feature.

Meseraull slid under Grant in Turn 4 on Lap 25 to take the top spot – one of numerous lead changes between Grant, Meseraull and Axsom from the early going past the halfway point. Grant then tapped a lapped car in Turn 1 on the next lap and lost momentum, giving Meseraull some breathing room out front.

But Grant stayed on his preferred high line around the bullring while lapped traffic slowed Meseraull, and Grant was right back on the rear nerf bar of fellow Californian Meseraull with 11 laps remaining.

The deciding moment occurred with eight laps to go when Meseraull slid high exiting Turn 4 and climbed the wall, with his right-side tires riding the top of the concrete wall while his left tires stayed on the clay oval. Grant squirted past for the lead and never trailed thereafter, while Meseraull kept control of his car after the wild wall ride and stayed in the throttle, eventually finishing fifth.

“I was hustling as hard as I could there, and I know T-Mez (Meseraull) was hustling hard, too,” Grant said. “It was really, really tricky down there. It felt like we got to pushing each other harder and harder and harder. It’s unbelievable.”

From there, Grant deftly navigated tricky lapped traffic in the 25-car field to power to what he called one of the biggest victories of his career. Grant also has an IMS connection through his late father-in-law, Bubby Jones, who raced in the 1977 Indianapolis 500.

“It was really hard when you get to lapped traffic,” Grant said. “You couldn’t get in at the rate you needed to get in, so your car was unloaded behind those guys. It was almost really hard to pass lapped traffic, so I felt like we kept getting back to each other in lap traffic. Just a ton of fun.”

Grant said one of his turning points in the race came after Daniel Whitley flipped into the fence between Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 4, pausing the race for more than 20 minutes for fence repairs. Whitley was unhurt, and Grant used the down time to settle his mind and prepare for a looming fight.

“We were kind of riding around early,” Grant said. “We weren’t the best car; we weren’t the fastest. But I just knew as soon as it got slick, curved up, technical, I can go to work. We got that yellow there, and OK, it was time to regroup and go to work here.”

Seventy-two cars participated in this three-night event at IMS, making the Driven2SaveLives BC39 the largest USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship field of the year.