Justin Grant held off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win Friday night’s prelim for the 36th annual Chili Bowl Nationals.
Driving the 2J RMS Racing Toyota, Grant surged to the lead past Sam Johnson on lap 16 of 30. However, the No. 47S Clauson Marshall Racing Stanton of Stenhouse remained close to the top spot throughout the remaining laps.
Grant continued to hold the lead despite multiple restarts, along with numerous wheel-to-wheel banging. The final lap delivered a bit more drama as Stenhouse attempted another big move. Heading into Turns 3 and 4, Grant went to the bottom as Stenhouse went to the top. Both drivers stunted their runs pushing hard into the corner and carrying the momentum – or lack thereof – into the frontstretch where Grant crossed the finish line by 0.504s over Stenhouse. Both drivers are locked into Saturday’s A-Feature.
“No, I never saw him,” Grant joked with Stenhouse alongside during the post-race press conference. Yeah, no definitely saw Ricky there at the end. We had got a big run off of (Turn) 2 there and just barely around his right front and pretty big chop down into (Turn) 3 to to hold him off. The bottom was, there in (Turns) 3 and 4, he got a bad break on the restart and let us get back in front of him. I just didn’t feel that strong on the bottom, so I was trying to keep making the top and (Turns) 1 and 2 work. And then Ricky rolled up alongside us there and we had just enough room to kind of squeak back around there and give him the big ol’ chop down into (Turn) 3, which, sorry, buddy.”
While Stenhouse would have preferred to have a Victory heading into Saturday, he’s just relieved to be locked in.
“It’s kind of been hit or miss. You know, we’ve podiumed a lot on our prelim nights. Unfortunately, last year a podium wasn’t good enough and missed it by one, had to run the B. But, we’ve definitely had our fair share of ups and downs, but man, it feels really good to be locked in.”
"JG" @JustinGrant40 gets it done! 🍾@cbnationals | @NOSEnergyDrink pic.twitter.com/55mpf1ElFk
— FloRacing (@FloRacing) January 15, 2022
Zeb Wise was the biggest mover of the race, clawing a 17th-place starting position to claim the final podium spot in third. Bryant Wiedeman and Johnson completed the rest of the top five.
A-Feature: Top 2 advance to Saturday’s A-Feature. [starting position]
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