One more for the road!
The long, arduous and battle-tested road on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship tour comes down to one final stop on Saturday night, November 26, at California’s seaside oval – Ventura Raceway.
It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s the one every driver in the discipline wants to put “winner” next to on their racing resume along with a chance to kiss the Aggie hat trophy in honor of famed Turkey Night promoter J.C. Agajanian.
This is the 81st running of the ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix.
The classic 98-lap race’s origins date back to the dawn of midget racing with National Midget Hall of Famer Bob Swanson’s victory in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif., which now stands as the home of CBS Television, site of the hit show, The Price is Right, throughout its entire run.
WINNERS & CHAMPS, SEAVEY & THORSON HEADLINE FIELD
The car was right, the driver was right, and all 98 laps went right for Logan Seavey at Ventura in 2021. For a born and bred California racer such as Seavey, the best truly was saved for last. The California born and bred driver led three different times in the 2021 race for a total of 70 laps, but the third time in the lead proved to be the charm.
Seavey swapped the lead with Buddy Kofoid a total of four times in a 25-lap span with Seavey taking the lead for good on the 42nd circuit, then controlling the remainder of the way with Kofoid in close quarters just behind.
Now, the Sutter, Calif. native enters as the defending race winner and is one of two past Turkey Night Midget winners entered for the event along with Tanner Thorson.
Seavey, the 2018 USAC National Midget champion, also scored a 7th in the 2019 TNGP. Thorson (Minden, Nev.), the 2016 USAC National Midget champion, won the 2015 race and was on the pole for the 2014 event. Thorson also possesses a 4th in 2017, a 6th in both 2014 and 2016, a 9th in 2021 and a 10th in 2013 on his Turkey Night resume.
Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) led on two occasions for 11 total laps before finishing as the runner-up in the 2021 race. The current USAC National Midget point leader and reigning champion also earned a 6th place result in his first TNGP midget start in 2019.
Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.) made his first career Turkey Night Grand Prix appearance in 2019 as well and led a race-high 67 laps before finishing 2nd in a classic 98-lap duel.
Carson Macedo (Lemoore, Calif.) possesses both Ventura and Turkey Night winning experience. The 2016 USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year captured a USAC Western States Midget feature win at Ventura in 2017. The following season, in 2018, he was the victor of the sprint car portion of Turkey Night. A 11-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car winner in 2022, Macedo scored a 3rd in a midget at the TNGP in 2016, a 6th in 2018 and a 5th in 2019.
Macedo’s Dyson Motorsport teammate, Spencer Bayston (Lebanon, Ind.), collected a best of 3rd in 2019 and also notched a 9th in 2016. In 2017, he locked up the USAC National Midget driving championship during Turkey Night at Ventura.
Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) was highly impressive during his one and only Turkey Night run to this point, scoring a 3rd place result as well as the Don Basile Rookie of the Race award as the highest-finishing first-time starter in the event during the 2021 showdown.
Steve Paden (Downey, Calif.) made his most recent Turkey Night start nearly two decades ago in 2004! The 2003 USAC Western States Midget champ finished a best of 3rd in the 2003 event to go along with a 6th in 2002 and an 8th in 2000. To boot, the 2001 USAC National Most Improved Driver picked up a USAC Western States Midget win at Ventura in 2004.
Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has turned in two fine performances in two previous TNGP starts in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 Don Basile Rookie of the Race took 8th in 2018 and a best of 4th in 2019.
Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) owns Turkey Night winning experience. His victory in the 2017 sprint car portion of the event has been the highlight of his successes at Ventura. The 2019 USAC National Midget driving champion made his best showing in the midgets at TNGP with a 5th in 2018.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) scored the pole and led the first 20 laps of the 2019 TNGP. His finest result in the event came in a 5th place run in 2015 while Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) has hovered around the top-five, etching a 6th in the 2021 race, supplemented by a 7th place finish in 2017 to go along with a 10th in 2018.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) has posted several wins on the board in his career at Ventura. There, he’s won three time with the USAC West Coast Sprints and once with the USAC Western States Midgets in 2018. His Turkey Night midget resume shows a 7th in 2013 and an 8th in 2016.
Michael Faccinto (Hanford, Calif.) has twice been a USAC Western States Midget champ, in 2018 and again reaching the pinnacle this year in 2022. He collected a USAC WSM victory this past May at Ventura and has posted a top Turkey Night finish of 10th in the 2017 race. In 2006, Faccinto won the USAC Ford Focus Midget portion of Turkey Night on the pavement at California’s Irwindale Speedway.
WOMEN MAKING HISTORY AT TURKEY NIGHT
In 2021, women took over the front row at the Turkey Night Grand Prix with Kaylee Bryson winning the pole and Taylor Reimer starting outside. Both return this year after making some noise on the big stage a year ago.
Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) made Turkey Night history as the first woman to win the pole, the first woman to lead laps in the event (17) and earned the best finish by a woman in the 80-year history of the race with a 5th while Reimer (Bixby, Okla.) had a fantastic showing with an 8th place result.
Five women are entered in this year’s race. Randi Pankratz (Atascadero, Calif.) earned a 19th in 2015. Jade Avedisian (Clovis, Calif.) took 23rd in her Rookie run of 2021. Mariah Ede (Fresno, Calif.) and Tuesday Calderwood (Goodyear, Ariz.) are also among this year’s Rookie class.
MAKING HAY ON TURKEY NIGHT
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) has a career at the Turkey Night Grand Prix that dates back to 2000 at Irwindale. His best result in six previous TNGP starts came with an 11th back in 2004. Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), like Meseraull, a multi-time USAC National Midget feature winner, was 27th in 2021.
Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian’s bunch includes a total of 10 entries, many of whom have one year under their belt at the Turkey Night Grand Prix. Among them are Bryant Wiedeman (Colby, Kan.), likewise, bested Turkey Night with an 11th in 2021. Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) took 19th in his only Turkey Night experience in 2019. Ryan Timms (Oklahoma City, Okla.) posted a 24th in 2021. Brenham Crouch (Lubbock, Texas) took 25th in 2021.
June 2021 Ventura USAC Western States Midget winner, Ben Worth (Coalinga, Calif.), was a 15th place runner in 2019. Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.) has numerous Ventura victories in the bag. He won the Turkey Night sprint car feature in 2019, and that same year was a USAC Western States Midget feature winner. He’s also been triumphant with both USAC WSM and the USAC West Coast Sprint Cars this year. His best Turkey Night midget run came in 2021 where he finished 21st.
Chance Crum (Snohomish, Wash.) returns to take on his bid for a second Turkey Night start after a 15th in 2021. C.J. Sarna (Palm Desert, Calif.) made his lone start in the event in 2019, finishing 21st.
Troy Rutherford (Ojai, Calif.) may very well be the winningest driver in the field at Ventura. He owns three USAC West Coast Sprint Cars victories, two with the USAC CRA Sprint Cars and another with the USAC Western States Midgets in 2007. His lone run with the midgets thus far at Turkey Night came in 2012 when he finished 21st.
ROOKIES IN ABUNDANCE
Nearly half the field is filled with Rookies. Several contenders will aim to become the first driver since Warren Mockler in 1986 to win in his very first Turkey Night appearance.
Among the group are 32 Don Basile Rookie of the Race candidates, including 2021 Turkey Night sprint car winner A.J. Bender (San Diego, Calif.), June Ventura USAC West Coast Sprint Car winner Daniel Whitley (Ferndale, Calif.) and October Ventura USAC Western States Midget winner Jake Andreotti (Castro Valley, Ariz.).
One-time USAC National Midget winner Jacob Denney (Galloway, Ohio) is in the fold as is 2021 USAC East Coast Sprint Car champ Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.), 2021 USAC Western States Midget champion Blake Bower (Brentwood, Calif.), BC39 Stoops Pursuit winner Dominic Gorden (Clovis, Calif.), 2021 Gateway Dirt in December midget winner Jonathan Beason (Broken Arrow, Okla.), plus USAC Western States Midget winners Brody Fuson and Cade Lewis, both of Bakersfield, Calif.
New Zealand’s Travis Buckley (Auckland, N.Z.) is the lone international representative in the event. He’s joined in the lineup by fellow Turkey Night first-time starting hopefuls, Californians Terry Nichols (Delano, Calif.), Jake Hodges (Camarillo, Calif.), Caden Sarale (Stockton, Calif.), Joey Bishop (Camarillo, Calif.) and Steve Hix (Ventura, Calif.).
Badger Midget racing veteran Bryon Walters (Beaver Dam, Wis.) will be making his first foray to Turkey Night. Brothers Blaze Bennett (Parker, Colo.) and Lance Bennett (Aurora, Colo.) come to the event from the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association.
Josh Hodge (Brownsburg, Ind.) and Scott Orr (Columbia City, Ind.) are coming out from Indiana while Austin Barnhill (Wilmington, N.C.) goes coast-to-coast. Zach Telford (Middleton, Idaho) and Teddy Bivert (Payette, Idaho) have the Idaho connection going as they make the long haul from the north.
Bordering Arizona brings a handful of newcomers, including Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.), Nathan Byrd (Goodyear, Ariz.) and Jim Vanzant (Prescott, Ariz.) along with brother and sister, Logan and Tuesday Calderwood (Goodyear, Ariz.).
Automotive Racing Products, the title sponsor of the 81st running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix, paying $10,000-to-win for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship event at Ventura on Saturday night, November 26.
Serving as grand marshals for the event are National Midget Hall of Famer Wally Pankratz and Dick Woodland.
Midget practice, plus USAC West Coast Sprint Car heat races, qualifiers and dash will take place on Friday, November 25 with the sprint car semi-feature and feature events, and the 98-lap USAC Midget season finale taking place on Saturday, November 26.
On Friday and Saturday, the pits open at 11am Pacific with the drivers meeting at 2:45pm, the grandstands opening at 3pm and cars on track at 3:15pm.
Friday’s tickets are $22 for adult general admission, $18 for Senior/Military/Students and free for children under 12. Pit passes are $45 apiece for members and $50 for non-members.
On Saturday, all tickets that are not reserved are $35. Reserved seats are $45 for ages 13 and older and $25 for ages 12 and under. Pit passes are $45 for members and $50 for non-members.
The Turkey Night Grand Prix will be aired live on Friday and Saturday at https://flosports.link/3OivVbj