TULSA, Okla. – Justin Grant converted a wire-to-wire victory on Vacuworx Qualifying Night into the pole position for Saturday’s 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals finale, defeating top seed Christopher Bell in the Pizza Express Pole Shuffle on Friday night.
Grant, who drew the second seed in the pill draw, outraced his Clauson-Marshall Racing teammate Tyler Courtney in the semi-final round of the ‘King of the Hill’ style contest before putting on a slide job-filled show with Bell in the final three-lap dash.
After a lap and a half of trading the position, Grant pulled away on the top side through the final six corners, ultimately earning himself the coveted top starting spot for the first time in just his second championship A-Main start.
“This has been pretty exciting so far,” Grant said with a huge grin. “Hopefully we can keep up the momentum. These guys are making my job easy … so as long as I keep showing up for work, I think we’ll be alright.”
“I couldn’t ask for a greater opportunity. Just the equipment alone is amazing, and everything that goes with Bryan and what he means … these guys pour their heart and souls into this and I can’t thank them enough.”
Despite losing the final matchup, Bell’s original draw of the one pill guaranteed him a front row starting spot. The Norman, Oklahoma native will roll off second on Saturday night, seeking his maiden Chili Bowl victory.
“That was a lot of fun,” Bell said. “The track was a lot better this year than it was last year. It was cool to be able to make the top work there. Obviously I’m disappointed to be starting second, but it’s pretty cool to be starting next to the No. 39BC.”
“I didn’t quite play my cards right off of the start … I probably should have taken off around the bottom, to where I could have gotten the advantage going into turn one, but it was still a good time.”
Tuesday night winner Tyler Courtney looked to be out of the running completely after suffering a hole in the oil pan prior to the start of the pole shuffle, but his Clauson-Marshall Racing team scrambled to repair the issue and Courtney advanced through to the third spot on the grid.
Wednesday winner Travis Berryhill will join Courtney on row two, just ahead of Jake Swanson and Danny Stratton.
Super DIRTcar Series big block modified regular Larry Wight and former World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion Daryn Pittman will roll off from row four, while Ronnie Gardner and USAC young gun C.J. Leary complete the top 10.
Three-time POWRi National Midget Series champion Zach Daum and California outlaw kart star Colby Copeland will start 11th and 12th, respectively; the final two drivers who were guaranteed starters in Saturday’s ‘big dance’.
Six drivers will transfer through each of two 20-lap Last Chance Showdowns on Saturday, filling out the final six rows of the starting grid for the championship finale.
If he doesn’t race his way in through Saturday’s ‘alphabet soup’, two-time defending Chili Bowl champion Rico Abreu is eligible for the past champion’s provisional and would start 25th, should he use it.
The 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals conclude on Saturday, with a complete run of preliminary racing leading up to the 55-lap, $10,000-to-win championship A-Feature.
Live television coverage will begin with the twin C-Features at 8:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV.
Full results from the Pizza Express Pole Shuffle can be found on the next page…