LOS ANGELES – Practice on Friday, Nov. 26 for the 80th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix had 44 of the 50 entered midgets on track at the fifth-mile Ventura Raceway.
The USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series cars hot lapped and ran qualifying races for Saturday. Six groups of eight midgets ran hot laps starting at 6:15 p.m. The fastest midget time – 11.827 – by 18-year-old Cannon McIntosh, the 2019 Turkey Night Grand Prix runner-up to Kyle Larson and Basile Rookie of the Race.
Larson and his Turkey Night Grand Prix teammate Chase Elliott, the last two NASCAR Cup Series champions, were not present Friday. Larson’s crew chief Paul Silva had Petry Racing’s Kevin Thomas Jr. hot-lap Larson’s No. 1k. Shane Golobic, from Matt Wood Racing, hot-lapped Elliott’s No. 9. Thomas was 29th fastest at 12.427 seconds and Golobic was 22nd best with a lap of 12.224 seconds.
The No. 71e Keith Kunz midget ran the ninth best lap of 12.042 seconds, but the driver was not midget rookie Mariah Ede, 15. She flipped the car Nov. 20 in the semi-main at Placerville Speedway and was hospitalized overnight. She returned home to Fresno, Calif., and did not make the trip to Ventura according to the team. Kunz had one of the three Matt Wood team drivers — Mitchel Moles — hot lap the No. 71e in three sessions. He turned a lap of 12.042 seconds. His best lap Friday was in his own No. 07w at 11.954 seconds.
Moles became the seventh Rookie of the Race to finish in a top-three position in the Turkey Night Grand Prix. Moles celebrated his 22nd birthday on Nov. 30, so the $500 cash earned as Rookie of the Race gave him an early birthday present. The Southern Pacific Farms sponsor on the hood of his Wood No. 07w Spike/Stanton SR-11x is a 1,000 acre raisin farm owned by his father in Raisin City, Calif., southwest of Fresno. His fourth fastest qualifying time and run from fourth to third by passing three-time race winner Larson on lap 85 of the 98-lap race could give him the nickname “raisin city rocket.”
Personable Moles, who is 6’2”, has raced sprint cars primarily at central California dirt tracks in Hanford, Merced and Tulare. He won a 30-lap USAC Western Midget feature in the No. 07w on April 10 at Hanford. He won a 600cc outlaw mini sprint feature in the last Tulsa Shootout, a week before the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the same indoor track. After his impressive Turkey Night Grand Prix showing, Moles picked up a ride with Dave Mac Motorsports in a No. 08m team midget for the Dec. 18 Jason Leffler Memorial indoor dirt track race at Du Quoin, Ill., where he finished fifth in a 20-car, 50-lap race. Moles is entered in the Chili Bowl in the Wood No. 07w.
– FLIPS: There were three midget flips during the Turkey Night Grand Prix. Jason McDougal flipped during practice. Dylan Ito, nephew of 1980s USAC Western Midget feature winner George Ito, flipped near turn one in the semi-main after contact. Keith Kunz Motorsports driver Brenham Crouch flipped in the main event after contact in turn three by Thomas Meseraull. He was towed to the work area and his team replaced a broken front axle in about two minutes during the red flag. He returned to the race and finished 25th.
– Seven of the past 22 Rookie of the Race winners competed in the 80th Turkey Night Grand Prix. This year the Turkey Night Grand Prix had 27 rookies listed in the program. Two additional write-in rookies were Turkey Night Grand Prix Sage Bordenave and Tyler Dolacki, son of retired USAC midget feature winner Robert Dolacki.
– There were three Turkey Night Grand Prix feature leaders. Kaylee Bryson led 17 laps from the pole. Logan Seavey led laps 18-25, 28-32, and 42-98. Buddy Kofoid led laps 26-27 and 33-41. Seavey led 70 laps and there was close racing with passing to keep fans interested.
– The oldest Turkey Night Grand Prix midget driver was Ron Hazelton, 65, and the youngest pair were Jade Avedisian, 15 years two months, and Placerville November 18 feature winner Ryan Timms, 15 and 3 months.
– Teams with multiple midgets were: Keith Kunz – six, three each by Reinbold-Underwood, Josh Ford, Matt Wood and Chad Boat; two each by Tom Malloy, Rudeen Racing, RMS, Dean Alexander, NMF Racing, Kyle Larson and Petry Motorsports. Twelve car numbers had multiple midgets using the same number with a letter added for scoring purposes.
Keith Kunz midgets are hauled to speedways aboard four Freightliner 18 wheelers. A smaller truck carries tires and spare parts. They departed from Merced Speedway right after the Wednesday race and traveled five hours via highways 99, I-5, 126 and 101 to the Ventura pit gate by 5 a.m. The KKM team had their usual entire row of pits next to the pit gate. KKM trailers carry four midgets on the top deck and a midget and pushers below. KKM also carries spare midgets on board.
KKM midgets have chassis numbers affixed to the left side of the cockpit roll cage. This year chassis numbers from oldest to newest were: DM-66 – Bryson’s No. 71; DM-69 – Tanner Carrick’s No. 71k; DM-72 – Taylor Reimer’s No. 25k; DM-85 – Crouch’s No. 97; DM-86 – Kofoid’s No. 67, and DM-89 – Bryan Wiedeman’s No. 01. The No. 71e midget did not have a chassis number because it was the KKM experimental car and did not have a driver assigned at Ventura.