FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Justin Grant’s first practice session at the controls of a potent Randy Burrow Racing national midget on Thursday night didn’t go exactly as he would have hoped, but he still carried his trademark smile around the Memorial Coliseum floor the entire time.
Grant, who won a USAC sprint car feature during Eldora Speedway’s 4-Crown Nationals weekend in September and drove his own car at last year’s Rumble in Fort Wayne, spent as much time as he could soaking in the feel of the new car and following in the tire tracks of RBR teammate Billy Wease, a five-time winner at the Memorial Coliseum.
However, he said after practice that the car was experiencing motor issues down the straightaways, a problem he and team owner Randy Burrow were working late into the night to rectify.
“The motor was just laying down … falling on its face,” explained Grant. “It would wind up good and then just fall out on me. I’m not super worried about it though. We’ve got time to get it sorted out, and Randy’s one of the best in the business at getting these cars right, so I think as soon as we isolate what needs to be tweaked and get it right we’ll be alright for the rest of the weekend.”
Grant takes over the seat of the No. 98 this year from outlaw late model star Tyler Roahrig, who drove the same car to a seventh-place finish in last year’s Rumble finale.
There were numerous headlines during practice night, during which 15 classes took laps ahead of the two-day racing program on Friday and Saturday:
– The night started off with a bang when non-wing 600cc micro driver Adam Schaeff’s car erupted into flames in the very first hot laps session.
Schaeff, who was uninjured in the spectacular incident, said that there wasn’t one specific culprit that sparked the spectacular blaze.
“It was a lot of little things that all added up to one big fire,” he explained. “I don’t know if I could tell you that this or that was what actually caused it, but we had some things that just weren’t right that led to it. It’s certainly a bummer … because this is never how you want to start your weekend off here, but we’re still holding our heads up.”
The Eaton, Ohio driver worked with his crew for the remainder of the night to repair the car, and will compete in Friday’s racing program.
– Cap Henry is one of three National Midget drivers doing double-duty during the weekend, driving the same winged 600cc micro for Rumble veteran John Ivy that he won with a year ago in addition to competing as a teammate to Joe Ligouri in the No. 67 traditionally driven by Ligouri’s wife, Lynsey.
Henry’s midget practice was a struggle, as the Republic, Ohio native spun on three separate occasions entering turn three before taking his car back to the pit area.
Of note, former Rumble midget winners Mike Fedorcak and Russ Gamester are competing in both the National Midgets and in their non-winged 600cc micros.
– Kyle O’Gara performed double-duty of a different sort on Thursday night, as he practiced both his own No. 67 Speedway Indoor Karting entry as well as the No. 99 Guess Racing entry set to be driven by his sister-in-law, former Verizon IndyCar Series driver and team owner Sarah Fisher.
Fisher was not on hand for Thursday night’s practice, but will drive in both the Friday and Saturday night programs.
“That might be the only time I ever get to do double-duty here,” O’Gara joked after climbing from Fisher’s car at the end of hot laps. “I looked like a pro in one car … and not so much in the other. Long as she’s happy tomorrow, we’ll be fine, but (staying cool) is a lot to ask for here (in Fort Wayne), as we all know!”
O’Gara drove a Kenyon-style midget at last year’s Rumble in his third appearance at the Coliseum, but failed to make either of the two A-Features.
“I’m just happy to have a fast car underneath me this time around. I feel like we’re going to have some really good speed once the track comes in the rest of the way. I can’t wait to see what we can do with it.”