Turkey Night Grand Prix Returns To Dirt
INDIANAPOLIS – The Turkey Night Grand Prix USAC Mopar National and Western Midget race is returning to a dirt track for the first time in 14 years.
The event, which for the past 13 years has been contested at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, will be held at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway on Nov. 22.
The feature event is 98 laps around the Perris half-mile in honor of long-time race organizer J.C. Agajanian, whose family now presents the annual classic.
Perris hosted the race in 1996 as Billy Boat scored the second of what would be three consecutive Turkey Night triumphs for him at three different tracks. The race’s last appearance on dirt came in 1998 at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway as Jay Drake took home the hardware.
Turkey Night has been held at nine different venues in its 78-year history. This year’s race marks the 72nd running of the race which began at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles in 1934, a race won by Bob Swanson.
The ensuing years have seen the race held at Gardena Stadium, Ascot Park, 605 Speedway, Saugus Speedway, Bakersfield, Perris, Ventura Raceway and Irwindale.
Boat’s three victories have been eclipsed only by the remarkable Ron Shuman, who compiled eight wins in the yearly race.
Defending two-time USAC National Drivers Champion Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. hopes to join Boat this year in the three-time winner category. He is expected to be joined by defending race winner Caleb Armstrong of New Castle, Ind., who was the winner on the Irwindale pavement last November.
Two other active race winners are Bobby East and Jason Leffler, while former race winners Dave Darland, Bobby Santos, Billy Wease and Tony Stewart remain active in the sport.
“We are absolutely delighted that Turkey Night is returning to the dirt,” said USAC’s President/CEO Kevin Miller. “The race had a sensational history on the dirt at tracks like Ascot Park and others and we look forward to what promises to be a memorable 72nd running of one of America’s most revered races.”
Perris race organizer Don Kazarian is equally enthusiastic about the race returning to his facility.
“We are very excited and honored to be hosting the annual running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Kazarian said. “The Thanksgiving night tradition returns to the dirt with all of its prestige for the first time since 1998. The best Midget drivers in the world will be here. It is going to be a great night of racing and the fans are going to love it. I cannot wait.”
Perris Auto Speedway has hosted a total of 203 USAC events (as of August 20, 2012), including 145 Sprint races, as it has become the home of the popular AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series.
A total of 22 USAC Midget races have been held at Perris since the first 16 years ago.
The Agajanian family also is excited about the move back to the dirt.
“My dad absolutely loved the event when it was part of our operations at Ascot Park,” said his son J.C. Agajanian, Jr., who now helps oversee the annual classic. “This race is so much a part of our family history and we are pleased to see it endure as it has. The Perris oval has always produced memorable events and this one will be no exception.”