From Bryan Hulbert / chilibowl.com
Powering to his fifth Driven2SaveLives Preliminary Night Victory in the past six years, California’s Justin Grant held off the charge of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in the closing laps to lock into his sixth career Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire A-Feature event.
The win by Grant is the first of the week for RMS/NOS Energy Drink Team; ending the steak of preliminary wins by Keith Kunz Motorsports at four. The win is also the fourth of the week by a driver from California. Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell captured Thursday’s prelim victory.
Working by early leader, Sam Johnson, on Lap 16, Grant sailed the cushion until a restart on Lap 24 threatened his lead when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. charged the hub to the top spot, only to have a caution negate the pass.
“That yellow doesn’t come out, I’m pretty sure Ricky [Stenhouse] wins that race,” stated Grant when asked about the challenge for the lead.
“We caught a big break there getting back to the lead and knowing that the bottom was there, and it was cleaning off, but I still didn’t feel that great down there so I kept trying to circle the top of one and two, and then he finally rolled up alongside me and I had to hustle down the backstretch and get that door closed.”
Adjusting to the bottom on the restart, it was a dogfight as the pair slammed tires several times trying to up the other with Grant finally getting the advantage. A slight amount of breathing room rolling to the white flag, that was quickly reduced to car lengths as Stenhouse returned to the cushion in three and four for one final attempt. Tight through the center, that allowed Grant to hold on by 0.504-seconds
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in second was followed closely by Zeb Wise, who tore a path through the field from 17th. Bryant Wiedeman was fourth with Sam Johnson posting a career-high fifth-place finish. Michael Faccinto crossed sixth, with Clinton Boyles rolling to seventh from 11th. Spinning on Lap 16, Kasey Kahne made a massive rebound to finish eighth with Chase McDermand ninth. Ethan Mitchell made up five spots to complete Friday’s top ten.
With preliminary nights complete, the official count of competitors into the 36th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire is a new record of 381. Officially, 395 entries were turned in without cancelation before the event.
Through Friday night, the World Wide Technology Raceway Flip Count made it to 46 with everyone able to walk away.
A Feature (30 Laps):
1. 2J-Justin Grant; 2. 47S-Ricky Stenhouse Jr; 3. 97W-Zeb Wise; 4. 01K-Bryant Wiedeman; 5. 72J-Sam Johnson; 6. 84-Michael Faccinto; 7. 11B-Clinton Boyles; 8. 19S-Kasey Kahne; 9. 40M-Chase McDermand; 10. 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 11. 68-Ronnie Gardner; 12. 11A-Andrew Felker; 13. 75B-Ryan Newman; 14. 77X-Wayne Johnson; 15. 28-Ace McCarthy; 16. 21-Daryn Pittman; 17. 26E-Cory Eliason; 18. 19F-Frank Flud; 19. 97K-Brenham Crouch; 20. 11X-Donovan Peterson; 21. 1UK-Tom Harris; 22. 32W-Casey Shuman; 23. (DNF) 44X-Wesley Smith; 24. (DNF) 7R-AJ Hopkins
Lap Leader(s): Sam Johnson 1-16; Justin Grant 17-30
Hard Charger: Zeb Wise +17
Setting the stage of Saturday’s run through “The Soup”, the SageNet Center will open at 7:00 A.M. with Hot Laps at 9:00 A.M. (CT). Saturday is slated to start with double Q-Features.
Lineups for each event are online at:
General Admission Pit Passes are sold at the event and never sell out.
Live coverage can be found on http://www.floracing.com until the event switches live to MAVTV after Opening Ceremonies.
For continued updates on the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire, follow the event on Social Media (@cbnationals) and at http://www.chilibowl.com
(Image Credit: Ryan Black)
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