Justin Grant wins Hangtown 100, Kyle Larson crashes twice

Hangtown 100 Larson Grant
USACRacing.com / Devin Mayo

Justin Grant won the Hangtown 100 USAC National Midget race at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway in a race that also featured the last two NASCAR Cup champions, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.

The $20,000 payday, the most lucrative of Grant’s time behind the wheel of a midget, was the third win of the season and eighth of his USAC Midget career – and it came after an up-and-down effort in Thursday and Friday night’s preliminaries.

Grant, who finished third in Night 1 of the three-day show and 11th in Night 2, had to overcome a seventh-place starting position and a challenge from Buddy Kofoid to take the checkers. Both drivers had to come from deeper in the pack than they would have liked after Kofoid drew the sixth starting position.

With Grant’s win, he tied Kofoid for 80th on the all-time USAC Midget wins’ list, along with Tony Bettenhausen, Merle Bettenhausen, Brady Bacon, Kenny Irwin, Jr. and others.

“The track was really kind of momentum-based there,” Grant said in a series’ release.  “You got on a long run, and it was harder and harder to capitalize the more a guy could get in his rhythm. Buddy was killing us on the starts there early but this car really came around late.  I kind of figured out in (Turns) 1 and 2 I could enter outside his right rear a little bit and not lose any steam and have way better angle up off 2 and then stay in the moisture down the backstretch.”

MORE: Joey Logano third in Modified debut; Chase Elliott 16th in USAC

Grant assumed the lead with 14 laps remaining after passing Kofoid, who led a race-high 66 laps. Logan Seavey rounded out the podium.

Deeper in the pack, it was a disappointing night for NASCAR stars Larson and Elliott.

Suffering from a poor draw, Larson started deep in the field after his son Owen Larson drew the 12 pill. While navigating traffic, Larson’s first incident came on Lap 12 when he was swept into an accident triggered by Brenham Crouch and Tanner Carrick. After retreating to the work area, Larson restarted at the tail of the field and was charging to the front when disaster struck again.

Larson was up to sixth on Lap 67 with a shot at victory before he jumped the cushion and barrel-rolled over the banking. Remarkably, after another trip to the work area, he was able to rejoin the fray and finished 18th in the 28-car field.

Larson won the 30-lap Main on Night 2 of the Hangtown 100 weekend and finished sixth in Night 1.

The event was less exciting for Elliott, but he managed to gain a little more midget experience. Placed in the field via a promoter’s option, he started 28th and finished 20th.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.