Thomas Meseraull (7x) battles Justin Grant Thursday night during the midget portion of the Gateway Dirt Nationals. (Jim Denhamer Photo)
Thomas Meseraull (7x) battles Justin Grant Thursday night during the midget portion of the Gateway Dirt Nationals. (Jim Denhamer Photo)

T-Mez Tops Opening Gateway Midget Prelim

ST. LOUIS – Thomas Meseraull converted a last-gasp pass into victory for RMS Racing during Thursday’s opening preliminary night of the Arizona Sport Shirts Gateway Dirt Nationals inside The Dome at America’s Center.

Meseraull, who ran second to polesitter and race-long leader Justin Grant for virtually the entirety of the 20-lapper, turned up the wick in the waning moments with his Envirofab No. 7x Spike-Speedway Toyota.

The California gasser slid Grant once on the penultimate lap but couldn’t maintain enough momentum to keep Grant from getting back past. Meseraull then traded the top spot three times with Grant on the final revolution of the temporary fifth-mile dirt oval, making the winning pass coming to the finish line.

It was a full-circle win of sorts for Meseraull, who won indoors in his very first start for owners Dave and Matt Estep last December at the Southern Illinois Center during the Junior Knepper 55.

Thursday night, he took the checkered flag again, albeit in even-more thrilling fashion.

“Wow. My guys told me I had the fastest car on the track while I was running second, and I was thinking, ‘Man, were they lying to me?’” Meseraull noted in victory lane. “I didn’t feel like I was the fastest guy on the track. Sometimes, though, you just have to go where they’re not. It’s easy to follow the leader because he’s leading, and I had to do my best to do something different in that one.

“I dialed on the shocks and put her up on the lip, and it worked out,” he added. “Justin (Grant) is a badass, so you’re not just going to drive around him unless you’re better. But I think we were better.”

Meseraull found a different line in the second half of the feature, diamonding turns one and two to get a straighter shot down the backstretch and make some momentum against Grant.

The strategy paid off, netting Meseraull a $3,000 payday.

“I was going for (the straight shot off),” Meseraull explained. “I was just trying to make some straightaway out of it, because I think he (Grant) and I were about equal.

“I like to say I’m an indoor specialist, but I’ve got a full USAC deal going, so I probably need to stop saying that,” he added with a laugh.

Grant finished second after leading the first 19 and three-quarters laps, with Blake Hahn completing the podium after racing forward from sixth on the grid.

Those three – Meseraull, Grant and Hahn – locked themselves into Saturday’s grand-finale main event.

Past USAC sprint car and Silver Crown champion Chris Windom was the first man out of the lock-ins in fourth and Logan Seavey crossed fifth in his first outing at the wheel of the Swindell SpeedLab No. 39.

NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Newman struggled in his first dirt-midget start in 19 years, coming home 11th after a night that started against the inside wall during hot laps on Thursday.

RESULTS: Gateway Dirt Nationals; The Dome At America’s Center; Dec. 19, 2019

Qualifying (best of two laps): 1. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-11.306; 2. Chris Windom, 17bc, Clauson/Marshall-11.347; 3. Logan Seavey, 39, Swindell-11.368; 4. Justin Grant, 4a, RAMS-11.420; 5. Karter Sarff, 08k, Dave Mac-11.495; 6. Andrew Felker, 11a, Felker-11.546; 7. Christopher Bell, 84, Tucker/Boat-11.552; 8. Blake Hahn, 52, Hahn-11.574; 9. Jason McDougal, 4, Klatt-11.598; 10. Tyler Courtney, 7bc, Clauson/Marshall-11.608; 11. Sam Johnson, 72, Johnson-11.673; 12. Anton Hernandez, 19h, Hayward-11.683; 13. Daniel Robinson, 57, McCreery-11.778; 14. Paul Nienhiser, 9x, Neuman-11.824; 15. Austin Brown, 17b, Factory Boss-11.867; 16. Tim Crawley, 117, Washburn-11.929; 17. Ryan Newman, 6bc, Clauson/Marshall-12.026; 18. Ace McCarthy, 28, McCarthy-12.218.

Heat One (10 laps): 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Karter Sarff, 4. Sam Johnson, 5. Christopher Bell, 6. Daniel Robinson, 7. Austin Brown, 8. Ryan Newman, 9. Jason McDougal.

Heat Two (10 laps): 1. Chris Windom, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Blake Hahn, 4. Paul Nienhiser, 5. Andrew Felker, 6. Anton Hernandez, 7. Tim Crawley, 8. Tyler Courtney, 9. Ace McCarthy.

Feature (20 laps): 1. Thomas Meseraull [2], 2. Justin Grant [1], 3. Blake Hahn [6], 4. Chris Windom [4], 5. Logan Seavey [3], 6. Anton Hernandez [12], 7. Tyler Courtney [16], 8. Andrew Felker [10], 9. Paul Nienhiser [8], 10. Austin Brown [13], 11. Ryan Newman [15], 12. Tim Crawley [14], 13. Ace McCarthy [17], 14. Sam Johnson [7], 15. Christopher Bell [9], 16. Karter Sarff [5], 17. Daniel Robinson [11], 18. Jason McDougal (DNS).