Speedway has some very special races that have hallmarked the history of dirt track racing for many decades
Each thanksgiving the Americans offer thanks and good wishes to family and friends across their country and the world. Speedway has its own special way of thanksgiving when they run the famed Turkey Night Grand Prix for the Mighty Midget Speedcars.
The tradition goes way back to 1934 when Gilmore Stadium first hosted the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” and it ran until 1950. The race found a permanent home at Ascot Park Fairgrounds from 1960 through to the tracks closure in 1990.
Many Southern Californian tracks have presented this historic race including Ventura and Irwindale Speedways. In 2013 the race returns for the second success year to Perris Auto Speedway.
The Turkey Night Grand Prix was the final night of racing for the USAC/Honda Midget Speedcars in the 2013 season and all 48 nominated drivers are keen have their name added to the honor roll of winners .
98 Laps on a changing race track is a challenge that only the very best would master .All the big USAC names including the recently crowned USAC/Honda National Champion Christopher Bell , USCA AMOILS Sprintcar Champion Bryan Clauson,Hagen .,Darland and Hine . The Lucas OILS /POWRi Champion Zach Daum just made up part of the 48 drivers that had the taste of Turkey in mind.
Qualifying for this year’s “Turkey Night Grand Prix “was just that little bit extra special with Perris Auto Speedway presenting a tribute trophy in honor of the late Jason Leffler.
So sought after was this trophy that two track record were recorded before young Parker Price Miller stopped the timekeepers watch at 16.889 .Coming into the event Darrel Hagen held the record at 17.025 only to see both Andrew Felker and finally the youngster Parker Price-Miller push it aside .
In a race over such a long distance there will be many hard luck stories. Andrew Felker took advantage of his front row starting position to lead the race until the 50th lap before a tyre failure ended his race. Christopher Bell bobbed off the cushion late in the race while chasing the lead and Hagen retired with 17 laps to run. Bryan Clauson was a very early retirement.
The hard luck story certainly belonged to Damien Gardiner who has worked hard to pass Darland and held what look like a winning break before disaster struck 3 laps out from the “Turkey Flag “ .Gardiners left rear wheel decided it had had enough of the battering and let go ending Gardiners night .
The final restart was all Darland and with the Turkey well in sight he took command while Brad Sweet quickly disposed of 2011 winner Caleb Armstrong and followed the peoples champs across the line for second. Armstrong crossed in third. POWRi Champ Zach Daum was solid in fourth with Ronnie Gardiners in fifth.
There can be no doubting the credentials of the winner Dave Darland, now adding his name to that of Mel Kenyon and Stan Fox as the only drivers to win the “Turkey Night Grand Prix “on dirt and the pavement, Dave Darland might be referred as the journey man by many but his huge base of loyal fans know he is always in the frame and his legacy grows stronger every year.
Dave Darland a worthy 73rd “Turkey Night Grand Prix Winner
FEATURE: (98 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Brad Sweet, 3. Caleb Armstrong, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Ronnie Gardner, 6. Nic Faas, 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Rico Abreu, 9. Mike Spencer, 10. Tanner Thorson, 11. Tracy Hines, 12. Damion Gardner, 13. Brad Kuhn, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 16. Nick Drake, 17. Danny Stratton, 18. Parker Price-Miller, 19. Dalton Armstrong, 20. Trey Marcham, 21. Christopher Bell, 22. Andrew Felker, 23. Taylor Ferns, 24. Darren Hagen, 25. Shannon McQueen, 26. Cody Swanson, 27. Kevin Swindell, 28. Jac Haudenschild, 29. Chris Windom, 30. Scott Pierovich, 31. Bryan Clauson, 32. Thomas Meseraull, 33. Randi Pankratz.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-49 Felker, Laps 50-81 Darland, Laps 82-94 D.Gardner, Laps 95-98 Darland.
This is what Dave had to say after his Turkey Night Grand Prix Win
“It was definitely a roller-coaster race. Gardner was definitely strong, and it looked like he had it won. We were lucky to get past him when he broke and it was the break we needed. It’s great to win this race on dirt after winning it before on pavement. I’ve had a great time running for Keith & Josh Ford and their crew chief Jimmy May, so I’m happy to get them their first Turkey Night win. This place has been pretty good to me,” Darland said.
Photo credit USAC Racing