CEDAR LAKE, Ind. — RMS Racing will return to the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Jan. 11-16 with a refreshed five-man lineup that is stacked with veteran talent.
Leading the way for the Indiana-based, Toyota-powered organization will be USAC stars Thomas Meseraull and Justin Grant, both of whom will drive full time for the Dave and Matt Estep-owned operation next season.
World of Outlaws sprint car aces Brad Sweet and David Gravel, as well as past USAC national midget champion Spencer Bayston, will fill out the RMS squad for the 35th annual event inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Rusty Kunz will crew chief three of the five entries, with Donnie Gentry turning the wrenches for the remaining two cars.
Meseraull will be the senior member of the team, having been with RMS since the operation’s winning debut inside the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Ill., during the 2018 Junior Knepper 55.
He’ll embark on his third year driving for the Estep family in January and recently celebrated his first points-paying USAC national midget victory in October at Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
The San Jose, Calif., native made the Saturday feature with RMS this year, his first time back in the big dance since 2017. Meseraull’s 12th-place finish in January trailed only an eighth-place result from 2016.
“Thomas has been our guy, one of the keys to our team, ever since we started this operation,” said Dave Estep. “As long as we can keep him driving for us, that’s what we want and we’re glad he’ll help lead our team again starting in January at the Chili Bowl. He’s an integral part of what we do here at RMS.”
Grant’s addition to the RMS stable came as a surprise to many, after the Ione, Calif., native won his preliminary night in 2019 driving for Rick Young’s RAMS Racing team in the NOS Energy Drink No. 4a.
A four-time Chili Bowl main event starter, Grant was bounced out of the program in his B main this year and hopes to rekindle the magic he had from 2016-’19, when he made the finale field in four straight tries. He’s been on the Saturday podium twice, finishing third in both 2017 and ’19.
As fate would have it, Estep noted that Meseraull was the one who suggested he bring Grant into the fold.
“It was probably nine months ago that we actually first talked about Justin driving for us,” Estep explained. “We’ve been trying to get this deal together for quite a while and the timing was finally right to make it happen. Thomas was very instrumental in it, because he wanted a driver of his caliber to be able to bounce things and ideas off of to help grow the team. Justin was a name he suggested.
“We’re delighted to bring him on to our team and look forward to finding success with him next year.”
Sweet returns to RMS for the second year in a row, with noted open-wheel mechanic Kunz again aiding in the Chili Bowl effort for the two-time defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion.
From Grass Valley, Calif., Sweet wrapped up his second straight World of Outlaws title on the strength of eight wins in 54 feature starts for Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb. He’s a five-time starter in the Chili Bowl finale, with top-10 finishes in each of those five Saturday feature appearances.
Ironically, Sweet’s car owner — Kasey Kahne — will be competing in the Chili Bowl for the rival Matt Wood Racing organization. Like RMS, Wood’s team is one of the newer superpowers at the Chili Bowl.
Gravel moves over to RMS from the now-defunct FMR Racing team, which closed its doors following the passing of car owner Frank Manafort on Feb. 1.
The Watertown, Conn., pilot recently inked a deal with Big Game Motorsports to run the full World of Outlaws schedule. He has 58 career World of Outlaws feature wins to his credit.
Gravel made his lone feature appearance at the Chili Bowl in 2019, finishing 18th on Saturday night. He landed in a B main this year and finished 15th.
Bayston comes to RMS off his third Chili Bowl feature start, moving over from Hayward Motorsports. The Lebanon, Ind., driver bounced around various sprint car and midget rides throughout the season, finding a home primarily with Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports.
His best Chili Bowl finish was third in 2018 with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
With five well-known names in their stable for this year’s week of competition in Tulsa, Estep is more confident than ever that his team can take home the coveted Golden Driller.
“Our whole goal from last year to this year was to build the experience level on our roster, particularly in Tulsa and we feel like we’ve done that with this group,” noted Estep. “We’re very happy with what we’re bringing to the table and we feel that any one of them could contend to win the Driller.”
The 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals will run Jan. 11-16 inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.
SPEED SPORT’s LIVE From the Chili Bowl coverage is supported by MyRacePass, KICKER, Curb Records and Swann Communications! To find out more about each of our partners and to check out all of SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage, visit our Chili Bowl Index Page! DON’T MISS SPEED SPORT’S LIVE From the Chili Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV and watch the Chili Bowl finale LIVE Saturday, Jan. 16 at 8:30 p.m. on MAVTV!