Gravel's Chili Bowl a Fun Detour from Outlaws Preparation
Jan 6, 2022
The 2020 Silver Crown champion isn't a 'little guy' but he thrives off the notion
It’s Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell versus The Field at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, but The Field has to be spearheaded by Justin Grant on anyone’s short list, right?
Consider the recent history.
Since making the feature in 2016 for team owner Larry Gardner, Grant has factored into the finish at nearly every race in the Tulsa Expo Center, even across stints at Clauson-Marshall Racing, RAMS Racing and now RMS Racing.
Grant finished third in 2017, seventh in 2018, third in 2019 and was the runner-up last year after starting on the pole. That run, of course, coincides with the five years dominated by Bell and Larson. The two years before that were swept by Rico Abreu.
What does Grant need to do to earn the Golden Driller?
"I don't entirely know, to be honest," Grant told Racing America on Friday. "If we figure it out, I'll let you know on Sunday."
All joking aside, Grant says he needs to get better when the track gets ‘curbed up’ and ‘trippy.’ He concedes he needs to be ‘a tick sharper’ in traffic late in a green flag run. And yes, he conceded there are certain things Bell and Larson are just the absolute best at right now.
"When you race with Kyle and Christopher, it’s tough because they’re just so good at knowing where to place their cars and when to make certain moves," Grant said. "It’s a game and they’re the best players at it. And I say that as someone who feels like he’s pretty good at it, too."
Game respects game.
Over the past half-decade, JG has become one of the most accomplished dirt open wheelers with a 2020 Silver Crown championship, nine USAC National Midget wins and 25 USAC National Sprint wins during that time.
Between RMS and TOPP Motorsports, Grant now has some of the best equipment in the discipline and has become a top guy, but Bell and Larson at the Tulsa Expo Center give him motivation that he receives in few other capacities.
"Throughout my career, I’ve always considered myself the little guy," Grant said. "That’s not really the case now because I’m surrounded by really great people, but I feel like I’m at my best when I feel like the little guy.
"Right now, Larson and Bell give me that little guy chip and that mindset. They are kind of on a pedestal right now, and I want to knock them off it. We’re working to change that."
And at this point, Grant won’t be particularly satisfied with another podium on Championship Saturday either, not that he ever has been.
"I haven’t found a podium yet where I have been satisfied," Grant said. "I was mad the first year I was on the podium there. I’ve really felt that way from the beginning of my career -- Tulsa or Kokomo. At the same time, I know it’s good to have a good week and I know it a couple of days later, but in that moment, I’m not going to be satisfied. It’s just frustrating to come that close."
Grant has come close a lot.
As far as he’s concerned, it’s time to close out.