LAS VEGAS – The Las Vegas Open Comp, November 5 to 7, is one of the most prestigious events in the Southwestern United States, and attracts some of the best Super Late and Late Model Stock Car drivers the west has to offer. This was the furthest thing on the mind of Fallbrook’s Grant Hebner as the NASCAR Super Truck series he was competing in entered the final stretch of the season.
After sustaining heavy damage to his Super Truck in races 12 and 13, the team had some tough decisions to make. The championship was out of reach, and Hebner had qualified and run up front the entire season.
Instead of racing the last two Super Truck races, the decision was made to run a test session in the team’s #21 Late-Model Stock Car at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. The test was conducted by team owner Jason Bowles, with Kevin and Brian Bowles on hand to keep things running smoothly. Bowles is the current NASCAR Camping-World West series Champion.
“The test was designed to get [Hebner] comfortable in the car in anticipation of running some races next year,” said Bowles. “However, [Hebner] came up to speed quickly, and before we knew it, he was running faster practice times than we normally see. Of course, this got our attention and when the subject of the Las Vegas Open Comp race came up several days later, I thought he could at least hold his own.”
The offer to run the Las Vegas race was presented to Hebner and his father, Bryant.
“You don’t normally make your ‘debut’ in a race of this stature.” said Bryant. “We just decided to make the trip to Vegas and see how Thursday practice for the race went. Then we could go from there.”
The Open Comp race consists of 150 laps with a mandatory pit break at lap 75. It is contested on the 3/8-mile asphalt Bullring track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex. The schedule included Thursday practice, Friday qualifying and heat races, Saturday “dash” races and the main event.
When Thursday came to an end, the time sheets recorded Hebner consistently in the top ten, running from seventh quick to second fastest in the last session. Hebner and the team were extremely encouraged and set a goal of making it into the main event on Saturday.
The top-ten qualifying times from Friday were automatically in the main event. Hebner qualified with a time of 15.851 putting him solidly in sixth place. The team‘s goal was to just finish the race.
Saturday started with a 10-lap dash between the top 10 qualifiers to determine their starting positions in the main race. Hebner moved up to third place and was battling for second when he hit the back of the second place car. NASCAR penalized Hebner, sending him to the back of the field.
Hebner made it up to seventh before his spotter, Bowles, instructed him to hold position. He was able to maintain his seventh place starting position for the main, insuring a start from the inside.
In the main event, Hebner kept his nose clean and ran in the top 10 for the entire first half of the race. After the mandatory pit stop on lap 75, Hebner worked his way into the top five. He ran his fastest lap of the race, a 15.926, on lap 137 of 150.
As the laps ticked down, Hebner took care of his car while others were spinning and falling by the wayside. Only nine cars remained on the lead lap in the final stages of the race.
“At this point I really wanted a top three ‘podium’ finish, and with four laps to go I was there,” said Hebner.
After the race, winner Travis Irving had nothing but praise for Hebner.
“The first year I came to the Open Comp we couldn’t even qualify for the main event,” said Irving. “[Hebner] not only makes the race, but he does it without having to run any of the heats. On top of that, he runs up front all night long. I am so proud of this team, and I’m equally proud of Hebner and the job he did in his very first Late Model race. He did everything that was asked of him and more. Unbelievable.”
Visit Hebner’s Web site at