Series News Release - USAC Media
Ventura, California (November 25, 2023) - Kyle Larson has few equals when it comes to Turkey Night Grand Prix success over the years, and on Saturday night at California’s Ventura Raceway, that fact remained true to form.
The Elk Grove, Calif. native punctuated the 2023 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season by becoming just the second driver in the 82-year history of the ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix Presented by the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame to win the famed race at least four times. Ron Shuman maintains the all-time record of eight Turkey Night victories between 1979-1993.
In the latest edition of Turkey Night, Larson made a beeline from his 10th place starting position straight to the lead by lap 27 before pacing the field for the remaining 72 laps to earn his third USAC National Midget triumph in three attempts over the past nine nights in the Golden State aboard his Kyle Larson Racing/HendrickCars.com – FloRacing/Eagle.
Overall, Larson has now reigned victorious at Turkey Night in 2012-2016-2019-2023, and has never finished outside the top-four in any of his 11 career starts in the event dating back to his debut in 2011.
“I’m happy to get another Turkey Night win,” Larson exclaimed. “We’re second on the all-time win list now, which is cool. Hopefully we can catch up someday and maybe be leading this thing. This is such a historic race with it being the 82nd running, which is incredible. it’s been a good event for us, and we’ve always run really well here.”
In addition to his $10,000 winning prize, Larson also earned a 1/4-scale replica of the J.C. Agajanian owned car that Parnelli Jones drove to victory at the Indianapolis 500 in 1963, a trophy which was handmade by Ventura Raceway promoter Jim Naylor. It’s among the rewards that brings Larson back each year in addition to the prestige of becoming a Turkey Night winner once again.
“All the Turkey Night trophies I have from Ventura are probably some of the coolest trophies I have in my collection,” Larson stated. “They get better and better every year and it’s probably the main reason why I come and do this race – just to come and win these awesome trophies. I need to get a little better at qualifying because I want to win some of those (trophies) too.”
Larson’s 27th career USAC National Midget win moved him past USAC Hall of Famers Tony Stewart and Gary Bettenhausen for sole possession of 15th on the series’ all-time win list, but this one required him to start outside the fifth row.
Up at the front of the 26-car pack, 2023 USAC National Midget champion and 2021 Turkey Night winner Logan Seavey established the lead early on from his outside front row starting position while pole sitter Ryan Timms gave chase after earlier winning the 30-lap USAC West Coast Sprint Car feature held prior to the midget race.
However, calamity came early on lap two as Taylor Reimer spun, which collected Michael Faccinto on the turn two infield berm. Meanwhile, up top, Mitchel Moles and Brody Fuson launched into orbit during a simultaneous somersault for both drivers, which ended with both drivers and cars upside down, thus ending their evenings prematurely.
Upon resumption, Seavey built himself a full straightway lead all while Larson was already breaking his way into the top-five. Larson went eighth to fifth in a span of two circuits between laps 17 and 18 past Chase McDermand, Spencer Bayston and Bryant Wiedeman. Moments later, on lap 22, Larson slid by defending Turkey Night winner Justin Grant in turn one to slot into fourth.
Seavey was working traffic by lap 26 when Timms suddenly clamped down and made his move for the lead with a turn one slide job that was successful. By turn four, Timms was in trouble as he ricocheted off the cushion, which opened the door underneath for Seavey to make a move entering turn one on the 27th go around.
Attempting to return the favor on Timms in turn one, Seavey slipped past, but in the process, Timms’ wheels locked up as he slid to a stop atop the cushion to bring out the caution and also collected third-running Kale Drake who was making his first career USAC National Midget start. For all intents and purposes, the incident ended Timms’ night with him soldiering on until lap 51 when he dropped out with a 23rd place result following an incident with Mariah Ede that damaged his header.
Seavey resumed at the point as the race leader coming to the green flag restart on lap 27. However, it was time to cue the Jaws music as Larson drew right to Seavey’s rear bumper. In this case – spoiler alert – the ending was much the very same as it has been of late for Larson in his home state of California in November. Larson delivered a turn three slider that put him at the front for good. Day followed suit with Larson to gain second from Seavey after starting 12th.
In that timeframe, Larson had to play it smart with the track conditions changing rapidly. As the wind picked up and the track began to dry out, one faulty move could’ve spelled doom.
“You just had to make good decisions,” Larson explained. “We were all kind of searching for the right lane at the right time. Thankfully, I put together some good laps around the bottom and got clear to the top and got rolling. The top of one and two was getting really wide around there and I figured Logan was running up there, so he was probably going to commit to that. I felt like if I could just poke the bottom, I could get a run and get by. It all worked out really well.”
Over the course of the next several laps, rubber began to rear its ugly head on the 1/5-mile dirt oval’s surface, and Larson knew full well when it was time for him to go to secure his spot before it was too late.
“I knew, shortly after that, the rubber was going to be coming,” Larson guesstimated. “I was just trying to hold the lead and peek to the left and I saw Corey inching toward me on the bottom a couple laps later. That’s when I knew it was time to get down.”
Yet, the battles raged on behind them as a furious fight for 11th on lap 64 resulted in contact between Jade Avedisian (12th) and Justin Grant (11th) off turn four, which pitched Avedisian sideways and collected Cannon McIntosh. McIntosh was the meat in the sandwich at the moment he got tagged in the bumper by Jake Andreotti, which sent McIntosh spinning into the infield. By lap 65, Grant was also out of competition, the victim of a broken front end.
In the final quarter, attrition (and rubber) started to become a concern as Spencer Bayston bowed out to the infield while running fourth on lap 75. Avedisian (11th) came to a halt with a flat right rear tire on lap 75 while Daison Pursley (7th) was stricken with the same fate on lap 86.
Throughout the final 12 lap stretch, Larson never turned a wheel wrong, and there was no room for error, as he railed the bottom right up against the infield berm with Day hanging right in there in second but was only able to close to within one to two car lengths of his back bumper down the stretch to the 98th and final lap.
In the end, Larson prevailed over Day by two car lengths with just a 0.224 second separation between the two as they crossed the stripe. Carson Macedo brought it home third while Bryant Wiedeman (Colby, Kan.) took fourth and Jacob Denney (Galloway, Ohio) advanced 17th to fifth to earn his best Turkey Night result yet.
Corey Day (Clovis, Calif.), the recently crowned NARC Sprint Car champion, posted the best finish of any Turkey Night first-timer in this year’s field. In his debut Turkey Night performance, he ran a strong second to earn Don Basile Rookie of the Race honors in his Wille Kahne/Sander Engineering – Four CCCC’s Construction – Durst/Bullet/Worth Mopar. The runner-up result for Day was the best finish by a Turkey Night Rookie since Cannon McIntosh in 2019.
“I grew up coming to this race as a kid where we made it a vacation and came down here to hang out at the beach and watch some racing,” Day reminisced. “It’s so cool to run it for the first time and then to run second and be Rookie of the Race. At the beginning, the middle slicked off really fast, then everybody kind of didn’t know where to be. I knew there was rubber under what they watered, so I was just kind of waiting on it and it came in fast. I was able to find it first, so that was good, but Kyle, he’s got way too many laps to not to know when it’s going to come in. When he moved down, that was kind of it.”
Carson Macedo (Lemoore, Calif.) certainly experienced the most unique finish of the night. After crossing the finish line in third, he slipped above the turn four cushion, tagged the outside wall and flipped – all of which occurred after the checkered flag had already been displayed. Nonetheless, Macedo still finished on the podium in his Dyson Motorsport/Complete Parts & Equipment – Tarlton & Son – Empire/King/Speedway Toyota for his best Turkey Night performance since his Rookie start in 2016 in which he also scored a third.
“That was a little embarrassing there,” Macedo admitted. “I didn’t have much right rear tire left and I got outside the rubber and gassed it up a little bit just to have fun I guess, and it never stopped sliding. I ended up plowing the cushion and turned it over. It was fun, though. I just wish it was a little bit different with it taking rubber and all. It wasn’t that ideal. Before that, the race was epic, and I was having a ton of fun and it was fun battling with a lot of good drivers.”
Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) started 23rd and finished sixth to earn his best career Turkey Night result, which came on the heels of a 24th to eighth run in the same race a year ago in 2022. Ken Clapp of the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame was on hand to present Axsom with a $500 bonus for his efforts.
FEATURE: (98 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Larson (10), 2. Corey Day (12), 3. Carson Macedo (11), 4. Bryant Wiedeman (4), 5. Jacob Denney (17), 6. Emerson Axsom (23), 7. Buddy Kofoid (16), 8. Logan Seavey (2), 9. Jesse Love (21), 10. Cade Lewis (26), 11. Hayden Reinbold (24), 12. Jake Andreotti (25), 13. Gavin Miller (19), 14. Daison Pursley (9), 15. Mariah Ede (7), 16. Kale Drake (3), 17. Chase McDermand (6), 18. Jade Avedisian (22), 19. Spencer Bayston (8), 20. Justin Grant (5), 21. Cannon McIntosh (15), 22. Michael Faccinto (13), 23. Ryan Timms (1), 24. Taylor Reimer (14), 25. Mitchel Moles (18), 26. Brody Fuson (20). NT
FINAL USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-1784, 2-Justin Grant-1504, 3-Bryant Wiedeman-1457, 4-Ryan Timms-1429, 5-Daison Pursley-1413, 6-Jade Avedisian-1407, 7-Jacob Denney-1363, 8-Gavin Miller-1227, 9-Cannon McIntosh-1190, 10-Taylor Reimer-1177.