LARSON BIDS FOR RARE SEASON-ENDING HAT TRICK AT TURKEY NIGHT
Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Photos By: Rich Forman/USAC & Dan DeMarco/RacersGuide.com
Ventura, California (November 27, 2019)………It always seems imperative to end on a high note, to conclude the season in as successful fashion as possible to bring good fortune and cheer heading into the winter months of the racing season.
Kyle Larson has an opportunity standing before him to reach the highest of notes this coming Thursday during the 79th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway.
Only two drivers in the history of the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship have won three-in-a-row to conclude the season, Billy Boat in 1995, and Larson himself was the last to accomplish the feat in 2012.
In that 2012 campaign, Larson notched a victory in Granite City, Ill. before heading west to score another win in Peoria, Ariz. and concluded the season at Perris, Calif. with the first of his two Turkey Night victories for Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian. Leading into Thursday’s Turkey Night race, the Elk Grove, Calif. native has a $32,000 Hangtown 100 win at Placerville, Calif. under his belt as well as a November Classic triumph at Bakersfield, Calif.
Boat, meanwhile, during that 1995 season of wizardry, saw him net an astounding 18 USAC Western States Midget wins in John Lawson’s No. 15, including a record 11 straight, and a series title. He took three-straight at Ventura, Bakersfield and Perris to wrap up the year and is the most recent driver to win three consecutive USAC National Midget features in the state of California, something Larson is also hoping to achieve Thursday at Ventura.
The rare three-peat feat has only occurred once in the history of the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car division, in 2000, when USAC Triple Crown champion Tracy Hines captured the final three, first on the .686-mile paved oval of Indianapolis Raceway Park in the Gratton Motorsports No. 19, followed by another on the high banks of Ohio’s Eldora Speedway at the 4-Crown Nationals aboard the BWB Racing No. 62 and rounding out the year with one final show of dominance at the Sammy Sessions Memorial just across the border at Indiana’s skyscraper steep asphalt of Winchester Speedway in the GMS ride.
In Silver Crown competition, twice it’s happened with Tom Bigelow being the first to run off three-straight in the division behind the wheel of the Leader Card No. 2 on the magic mile of the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois, followed by a historic victory in the first ever pavement race held under the Silver Crown banner at the Minnesota Fairgrounds in St. Paul, a 200-lapper mind you. The USAC and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer closed it out with another sterling performance at the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds dirt mile.
Jack Hewitt one-upped everybody else in his scorching 1986 season that saw him dominate the dirt tracks on the schedule, winning six of seven on the clay, including the final four at the one-mile dirt ovals of Springfield, Ill., Du Quoin, Ill. and Indianapolis, with one final tally for good measure on his home turf of Eldora in the Bob Hampshire No. 63.
While winning three or more in a row to conclude a season is a rarity itself, so is just winning two-straight. In USAC National Midgets, you can only count on three other instances: Parnelli Jones at San Jose and Ascot Park in 1964; Gary Bettenhausen at Manzanita and Ascot Park in 1967 and Bobby East at Tucson. Ariz. and Irwindale, Calif. in 2004.
It’s happened slightly more in USAC’s National Sprint Car series, first with Roger McCluskey at Ascot on Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 of 1962. Twenty years later, Sheldon Kinser swept the final two legs of the series’ tripleheader at 311 Speedway in Madison, N.C. in 1982. Jack Hewitt finished his legendary run in the Hampshire No. 63 sprinter in a flurry with a pair at Eldora and Terre Haute at the end of 1997.
Three years running between 2006 and 2008, three different drivers established year-end dominance on the Sprint circuit, all coming during the Western World Championships at Manzanita: Josh Wise for Tony Stewart Racing in 2006, Jerry Coons, Jr. for Dynamics, Inc. in 2007 and Kevin Swindell for Tom Rolfe in 2008. The feat didn’t occur again until a week-and-a-half ago when Tyler Courtney locked down victories in the final two of the year at Western World’s new home, Arizona Speedway.
Silver Crown year-end history was made just two more times in addition to Bigelow and Hewitt with consecutive season-ending triumphs in the Zarounian Motorsports No. 67 by J.J. Yeley on the dirt of Cal Expo and the pavement of Gateway in 1998 for the first two series victories of the future two-time series champ’s Silver Crown career. Chris Windom, likewise, took control of the final two in 2016 at Du Quoin and Eldora en route to a championship season for car owner Fred Gormly.
USAC Midget practice and USAC West Coast/VRA Sprint Cars will kick off the Turkey Night festivities on Wednesday, November 27 and conclude Thursday night, November 28 with the finales for the West Coast/VRA Sprints and the 98-lap main event for the midgets.
On Thursday, pits open at 11am Pacific, drivers meeting at 2:45pm, grandstands open at 3pm, hot laps at 3:15pm, immediately followed by qualifying and racing events. All tickets that are not reserved are $35. Reserved seats are $45 for ages 13 and older and $20 for ages 12 and under. Pit passes are $50 each.
Wednesday’s timetable is the same except for pits opening at 11:45am. The slate features West Coast/VRA Sprint Car practice, qualifying, heat races and a fast dash along with USAC Midget practice. General admission tickets are $20 for adults on Wednesday, $15 for seniors/military/students and free for ages 12 and under with an accompanying adult. Pit passes are $40 apiece.
Advance tickets for the 79th Running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix are available online through www.venturaraceway.com or by calling 805.648.7223. Ventura Raceway is located on the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 West Harbor Blvd. in Ventura, California.
Both nights of racing action at Ventura can be watched live and on-demand on FloRacing and listened to live via the USAC app. Follow along with live timing and scoring on both the USAC app and the Race-Monitor app.