---- — After a season that saw them go different directions, Justin Grant and Mark Hery have reunited for the 2014 season.
In the first event of the season over a month ago at the Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., Grant put the Claxton Race Engines/Hery Motorsports No. 40 on the podium, finishing second to two-time USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series champion Bryan Clauson in the season opener for the series.
Coming off a broken neck suffered in a passenger car late in the 2012 season, Grant began the 2013 campaign piloting Jeff Walker’s always potent No. 11W.
However, as many will attest, wheeling a machine for a team the caliber of Walker’s comes with lofty expectations. Those expectations as well as lingering doubt regarding his injury saw Grant begin the season with a pedestrian start.
Not long into the season Grant and Walker opted to go different directions. He piloted Bill Elson’s No. 27 as well as the Pollock No. 21 during the season and even jumped back into Walker’s car late in the season, capturing a feature win at Kokomo.
“The injury was in the back of my mind,” Grant said after returning to his Avon home following the opening weekend in Florida. “I was thinking too much and overdriving. I wasn’t letting the car do what it’s supposed to do and it showed.”
Some advice from veteran Tracy Hines, who overcame a serious off-track injury himself a few years ago, helped Grant turn things around.
“Tracy just told me to go out and drive,” he recalled. “He told me he could tell that I wasn’t driving like I usually do and that I was thinking too much. I figured since he had come back from his injuries, he was a good person to listen to. I think that once I had a wreck and realized I was going to be all right, that helped me quite a bit. I was in the Pollock car at Terre Haute and had a crash and had no pain and that turned things around.”
While he was working through overcoming a serious injury, Gary Taylor was raising plenty of eyebrows with good runs seemingly each week aboard Hery’s No. 40. When Taylor opted to change teams prior to this season, Hery realized that Grant would be the perfect driver to put back into the seat.
“I had called Mark late last year and let him know if that seat ever came open I would like to be considered,” Grant stated. “I really don’t know what happened with Gary. I have heard he got a ride from someone on the West Coast, but Mark called and asked if I would like to drive his car.”
The duo picked right up where they left off in 2012, quickly clicking as evidenced by his runner-up finish in Florida.
“I felt really good in the car,” he noted. “The car is basically brand new and it’s a good race car. The thing that really helps is that our crew is primarily just Mark and I. I like to work on the cars and set them up where I feel comfortable and if I miss on the setup, I can’t blame anyone but myself.”
In his career, Grant has snagged 20 feature wins. Of those, 15 have come while piloting Hery’s car. He also claimed a feature win driving the Baldwin Brothers No. 5 and one aboard Elson’s mount. His other three wins were for Walker.
Simply put, his goal for this season is to be crowned track champion at the local oval.
“Running for the track championship at Kokomo is right at the top of the list for this season,” he said. “Aside from that we are planning on running a lot of the bigger shows that make sense. We’ll run with USAC like we have in the past but we’re also planning on running some of the B.O.S.S. events and whatever big races that are out there. If we are running well, we would like to race about 40 to 50 times this season.”
Brett Bowman may be reached by email at email@example.com.