You have no doubt heard Robert Burns’ phrase, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That certainly could have labeled the start of Grant Sexton’s night at the annual Salute to Indy at Perris Auto Speedway. However, in typical Sexton fashion, the 18-year-old turned a negative into a positive by placing ninth and winning the “In Memory of Jim and Chet Gardner Hard Charger Award” by coming from last to finish ninth in the 30-lap main event.
The scenario began when the Sexton Gatlin Racing team hauled four cars to Perris for the important night of racing. Included were Grant’s #22 410 USAC/CRA sprint car, a #22 360 sprint car that his father Brent was going to race in The PAS Senior Sprints, a #44 POWRI Southwest Lightning Sprint for Brent, and a #3 for Geoff Dale to race in the lightning sprints as well.
Grant came into the night leading the Rookie of the Year points chase. However, disaster struck almost immediately when his oil pump broke. When repairs could not be made, he jumped into the 360 Brent was slated to drive in the Seniors. At the time, it seemed like he was bringing a knife to a gunfight giving up 50 cubic inches and a lot of horsepower to his competitors in USAC/CRA. It appeared he would go out and make some laps and score minimal points.
With everything going on in the pits, Grant missed qualifying. That was followed by a seventh-place finish in his nine-car heat race. The handwriting appeared to be on the wall. Then again, heat races and qualifying do not pay a lot of points. It is all about the main event.
For the 30-lap main, Grant started dead last in the 18th spot. Once again, he was giving up cubic inches and all that horsepower. Even though he is a talented young driver, just like his heat race the odds were stacked against him. Apparently, nobody told that to the affable teen. He kept out of trouble – and there was a lot of that going on in the race – and began to move forward. In the race’s late stages, he swept into the 10th spot and when the Steve Russell checkered flag ended the race, he was in ninth.
In addition to being the Rookie of the Year point leader, Grant jumped another spot in the standings and is now eighth in USAC/CRA points. Next up for him will be the Bubby Jones/Ray Sheetz Memorial at Perris on June 10th.
On the POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car portion of the program, Brent Sexton, the 2021 champion, and Dale gave a very good account of themselves. Brent, who won the last race at Perris on April 15th, started fifth in the heat race, and finished second. Dale, who was contesting his first-ever SWLS race, began the heat in seventh and finished sixth.
The two drivers started in the same spots in the 20-lap main event. Brent moved forward early on and was looking fast. However, in the latter stages of the main event, it became obvious that he was losing speed. He managed to hang onto the second-place spot. When the crew examined the car in the pits after the race, they found the culprit of his decreasing momentum. He had a badly cracked front axle.
Dale gave a great account of himself. Picking up speed throughout the night, he ended up finishing fourth and nabbed the race “Hard Charger” award.
Sexton Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2022 season possible. Keys Brothers, East County Electric Works, Maxima Oil, Automated Interiors, Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, and Swift Powdercoat.