RACING SCENE - (Ventura TURKEY (N) Leftover Notes – By Tim Kennedy
LOS ANGELES – Each year during the USAC Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway some drivers race in both midget and sprint car divisions. In 2018, 12 drivers did so. They were: Brady Bacon, Ryan Bernal,Tanner Carrick, Colby Copeland, Tyler Courtney, Geoff Ensign, C. J. Leary, Austin Liggett, Michael Pickens, Logan Seavey, Jake Swanson, and Tanner Thorson.
DOUBLE DIPPERS: At the 79th running of the TNGP nine drivers raced in both a 360 sprint car and a midget during the 2019 TNGP rain-delayed one day to Friday, November 29. They are ranked here by their combined success in both sprint and midget main events (lowest number wins as in golf). The versatile 2019 TNGP drivers are:
Driver Sprint Finish Midget Finish Combined Finish
Carson Macedo Car 21 – P. 6 Car 21 – P. 5 11
Tanner Carrick 83 – P. 9 71K – P. 8 17
Tyler Courtney 81T– P. 3 7BC – P. 18 21
Chase Johnson 24 - P. 1 25X - P. 29 30
Chris Windom 81X - P. 17 17BC – P. 14 31
Michael Pickens 81S – P. 12 1NZ – P. 22 34
Austin Liggett 83 – .P. 8 83 - P. 30 38
Brady Bacon 73T– P. 4 73T – DNQ for main.
Tyler Edwards 57 - P. 5 17S – DNQ for main.
Maybe for the 2020 TNGP in Ventura a sponsor could step up and fund a new award honoring the most successful driver who raced in both divisions. A cash award of $500 or $1,000 would be appreciated by the most successful driver. Maybe current generous corporate TNGP backer ARP, of Ventura, would be willing to do so.
Kyle Larson raced his own No.1K King chassis (from New Zealand) with Speedway Toyota power and became a three-time TNGP winner. Kyle has raced in eight of the last nine TNGPs held at three speedways—Irwindale (2011), Perris (2012-2015), and Ventura (2016-2019). He was the 2011TNGP Don Basile Rookie of the Race. Kyle attended the 2013 TNGP only as a spectator and watched from the pits. His TNGP finishes have been fourth, first, third, second, first, second, second and first.
He won 98-lap TNGP mains at Perris (2012) and Ventura (2017) prior to his victory as the only past TNGP winner entered in 2019. Victory wasn't easy. Kyle started 15th in a talented 30-driver field and was only up to P. 7 by lap 22. He was fifth at lap 35, fourth on lap 36, third at lap 38, and second on lap 44. He slipped back to third by lap 70, regained second on lap 76 and closed ground gradually on Cannon McIntosh, the laps 21-87 race leader.
Kyle executed his winning pass on lap 88 in the third and fourth turns and led the final 11 laps. He opened a 40-yard advantage, but a red flag flew for a flip at the at the white flag. That caused a green, white, checkered flag finish and cut his victory margin to 15-yards. Sensational 16-year old McIntosh, the Oklahoma-based Rookie of the Race, drove his father Dave's No. 08 Spike/Speedway Toyota. He became the highest finishing TNGP Don Basile rookie award winner ever in the 22nd presentation of the TNGP rookie award.
Impressive Midget Division “Young Guns” at the 2019 TNGP also included:
> Gio Scelzi, 17, from Fresno. He has already won a USAC Midget November feature at Placerville, Calif.,
> Mike “Buddy” Kofoid, 17, a winner in sprint cars and midgets,
> Kaidon Brown, 19, Australia, with three years of Aussie midget experience,
> Daison Pursley, 16, Oklahoma,
> Tanner Carrick, 17, and brother Blake, 15, Red Bluff, Calif.,
> Carson Sousa, 15, Red Bluff, Calif. an outlaw karts racer at the Red Bluff track.
> Others include Zeb Wise, 17, Jesse Colwell, 20, and USAC Western Series 2019 midget champion Robert Dalby.
TOP TEN QUALIFIERS: TNGP ten fastest qualifiers in 2018 at Ventura in order were: Tanner Carrick, Chad Boat, Kyle Larson, Shane Golobic, Tanner Thorson, Tucker Klassmeyer, Ryan Robinson, Tyler Courtney, Christopher Bell, and Brady Bacon. Forward to the 2019 TNGP and none of them made the top ten qualifiers. (Boat, Thorson and Bell were not entered in the 2019 TNGP). The 2019 TNGP top ten qualifiers in order were: Kevin Thomas, Jr., Chase Johnson, Jerry Coons, Jr., Spencer Bayston, Rico Abreu, M. Pickens, G. Scelzi, C. McIntosh, A. Liggett, and C. Macedo.
Keith Kunz Motorsports TNGP results at Ventura showed one/two finishes in the main event in 2017-18 with KKR teammates Bell and Larson. Both drivers were not among the eight KKR drivers at the 2019 TNGP. Six of the eight KKM drivers (75%) made the feature. They included holdover KKM drivers Logan Seavey, Jesse Colwell, T. Carrick, R. Abreu, plus rookies D. Pursley and B. Kofoid. Two KKM holdover drivers, Holley Hollan and T, Klassmeyer finished 11th and 13th in the LCQ race and did not make the feature.
Feature finishes in 2019 by KKM drivers were: sixth (Kofoid), seventh (Seavey), eighth (Carrick), 16th (Colwell), 17th (Abreu), and 19th (Pursley). Three KKM drivers (Larson , Bell and Thorson) had won six of the last seven TNGP features starting in 2012. Dave Darland won the 2013 TNGP in Perris.
The Ventura-based No. 81 Steve Watts 360 sprint car team entered four or five cars each year from 2016-2019 at the TNGP. In 2016 drivers were: M. Pickens, Tristan Guardino, Brody Roa, Trey Marcham, and Dennis Rodriguez. In 2017 drivers were: Pickens, Helt, Cody Majors and NASCAR driver Stewart Friesen. In 2018 No. 81 drivers were: Pickens, Helt, Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom. Watts 81 team cars in 2019 had drivers Pickens, Helt, Courtney, and former Bandolero racer Ricky Lewis.
Audra Sasselli, of Selma, Calif., is an educator in the San Joaquin Valley. She raced in her first TNGP in the No. 1P Spike/Fontana owned by Kelly Nicholas, of Delano. Audra raced her family-owned No. 77 2008 Beast/Chevy sprint car with the USAC West Series and later in the traveling King of the Wing winged sprint car series. Audra told me she raced in the Tulsa Chili Bowl about 12 years ago in a Spike/Gaerte midget owned by BCRA's Dave Thurston. Her blonde daughter, 8, is a third grader who now races a No. 79 micro midget. She won two of three races near their home and was with her mom in the Ventura pits.
Nick Drake was pre-entered for the 2019 TNGP in the No. 55 Troy Cline midget owned by his step-father and former SCRA 410 sprint car driver Troy Cline. When Nick was offered the No. 7R Rushton ride Cline stayed home in North Carolina. Nick said, “that saved him a 68-hour tow west to Ventura.”
The white No. 57 winged sprint car parked in the Ventura pits at the TNGP in K. Larson's midget pits is owned by Californian Paul Silva. The Finley Farms sponsorship on the hood is from a farm in Port Jones, Calif, near Yreka. Larson has won numerous races nationally in Silva's No. 57. In fact, Larson, won the Saturday, November 30 ASCA Southwest Region winged sprint car feature at Arizona Speedway a night after winning the TNGP. It was his fourth consecutive triumph following November victories in Placerville, Bakersfield, and Ventura.
In the ASCA race Larson beat Christopher Bell,w ho did not race at Ventura a day earlier to be with his family in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. Larson and Bell will resume their open-wheel midget rivalry in midgets at the Tulsa Chili Bowl from January 13-17 and during February in NASCAR's Monster Energy Cup Division at Daytona Beach. Larson will drive the No. 42 Chevy and Cup rookie Bell will wheel the No.95 Toyota.
The 80th TNGP race dates at Ventura Raceway have been announced as November 25-26, 2020. Other USAC Nationald Midget race dates preceding the TNGP are Tuesday, November 17 at Bakersfield, Speedway and for appearance points only Thursday, Friday, Saturday, November 19-21 at Placerville Speedway.