Kyle Larson passed Cannon McIntosh with just 11 laps remaining and went on to win the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series’ 79th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway, Friday night.
While Larson earned his third Turkey Night title, it was the 16-year-old McIntosh that stole the show for much of the evening’s 98-lap feature event.
After starting eighth, McIntosh climbed into fourth on the opening lap as fellow Toyota driver Kevin Thomas Jr. went straight to the lead after starting from the pole. By lap 10, Mcintosh had moved into third, with Thomas continuing to lead, while Spencer Bayston held down the second spot.
After a number of early caution flags, McIntosh would make his move on lap 21, powering past both Thomas and Bayston on the outside to take the lead coming off turn two. From that point on, McIntosh would dominate much of the event, excelling on restarts to repeatedly pull away from the field, opening up more than a second lead and up to four seconds at one point.
Behind him, Larson climbed from his 13th starting position up to sixth by lap 30, while McIntosh continued to lead, followed by Bayston, Thomas, Jason McDougal and Carson Macedo.
Larson had moved into the top five by lap 40, but almost saw his chances for victory disappear when he biked it in turn one on lap 53. His car was on the verge of tipping, but he somehow was able to save it and continued in the top five in what would be the turning point of the race. Just one lap later, he was able to move up to third.
McIntosh would continue to pull away from the field, but a series of caution flags would bunch the field back together. A lap 76 restart would see McIntosh maintain his lead, while it would take Larson just one lap to move past Bayston for second with 21 laps remaining, but still more than a second and a half behind the leader.
McIntosh had more problems than just Larson, though, with a problem developing with his right rear radius rod that resulted in a right rear tire shake. As Larson began to close a yellow flag would wave with just 11 laps remaining. On the restart, Larson would run the fastest lap of the race, going outside on turn four to take the lead.
Following another caution, McIntosh would be able to stay with Larson, but it was all Larson at that point, as he went on to the victory, with McIntosh in second and Bayston in third. The win was Larson’s third in a row with his new Kyle Larson Racing team. While falling just short of the win in leading 67 laps, McIntosh did take home Rookie of the Year honors.
McDougal finished fourth, followed by Macedo, Buddy Kofoid, Logan Seavey and Tanner Carrick as Toyota-powered drivers captured seven of the top-eight finishing positions.
Toyota has now won the Turkey Night Grand Prix six consecutive years. For the season, Toyota drivers won 17 USAC events, including each of the last seven races. Overall, Toyota registered 45 national midget car feature triumphs in 2019, an all-time program best.
The Toyota midget car program kicks off the 2020 campaign with the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Jan. 13-18, as the manufacturer looks to capture its sixth consecutive victory in midget racing’s biggest event.