KENNEDY: Turkey Night Returning To Dirt


LOS ANGELES — The 2012 USAC Midget Turkey Night Grand Prix is returning to its roots — dirt — for the 72nd running of the historic event. USAC National and Western Series points will be awarded on Thanksgiving evening Nov. 22 at the half-mile clay Perris Auto Speedway south of Riverside.

J. C. Agajanian Jr. and PAS President Don Kazarian made the announcement jointly to more than 2,000 sprint car fans at the USAC-CRA sprint car race this past weekend. The news met instant approval from dirt-track open-wheel racing fans. PAS hosted the TNGP event in 1996 during its first year of racing.

Billy Boat won that 100-lap GP in John Lawson’s No. 15 Stealth/Gaerte. Only three of the 24 drivers in the 1996 TNGP are still active in midgets. The TNGP feature will be 98-laps again to salute the late car owner/race organizer J. C. Agajanian. There will be no other divisions (sprints or Ford Focus midgets) racing in the 2012 TNGP, so midgets will have center stage.

The TNGP has been hosted for the last 14 years at Irwindale Speedway’s half-mile paved track, which has not had racing this season. Only practice sessions and a driving school now use the Irwindale oval track. It will be interesting to see how many dirt track only teams from the Midwest, Arizona and Washington will tow to “So Cal” for the prestigious Thanksgiving racing classic that dates to 1934 at Gilmore Stadium in Hollywood.

Kazarian said dirt-track fans have lobbied annually for the TNGP return to PAS. Now it’s up to fans to turn out in significant numbers to support the race and guarantee the return of the event to the PAS.


Aug.18-19 became the first “I-15 Freeway Series” for USAC-CRA non-winged sprint car teams. PAS hosted another triple-header Saturday night with California Lightning Sprints (winged cars/motorcycle engines) and the age 45+ Senior Sprint drivers with 360 ci power as support divisions. USAC-CRA tied the season-high car count of 37 on opening night. CLS had 19 cars and Seniors had seven cars. Cory Kruseman (410s), Bobby Michnowicz (CLS) and “Hubcap” Mike Collins, 55, (Seniors) won the three features.

The chance to race two nights attracted about seven additional cars. Three cars came from Arizona, several from central California and from inactive status. Kruseman’s driving school had three sprint cars and two midgets in competition.

ROUTE 66 MOTORPLEX — Victorville:

The USAC doubleheader Sunday the 18th was an ambitious move by new USAC open-wheel promoter Scott Burns. He drove his own No. 26 sprint car in CRA and SCRA from 1990 to the late 1990s. He raced in the first Perris sprint car event in 1996. Another promoter, Steve Quercio, presented USAC-CRA racing once last year at the then-named Victorville Raceway Park semi-banked clay three-eights mile on the grounds of the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds. The track is 2,930 feet above sea level. Mike Spencer won that 30-lap feature after Nic Faas set fast time of 13.145 in a field of 30 cars.

Burns and his track preparer, John Aden, worked in truckloads of new clay weeks before his Aug. 18 race featuring both USAC-CRA sprints and USAC Western midgets. Three drivers raced in both divisions. Ruts that developed in the turns last year were eliminated this year. A 100+ degree hot and humid day caused dust, despite repeated watering during the event.

It was still 100 degrees at 4:25 p.m. when warm-ups and hot lapping (two divisions) started. Time trials followed and the track was reworked before four 10-lap sprint heats and three eight-lap midget heats. A 12-lap B sprint race, the 20-lap midget and 30-lap sprint mains followed after more track re-grooming. The crowd was larger than expected, so the concessionaire made runs to local stores for additional cold bottled water. Food ran out before the features. Admission prices were reasonable for the fan-popular sprint car/midget doubleheader.

Adult tickets were $15, seniors and military $10 and children $5. Burns even had a souvenir ten-page printed program with color for $3 on sale at the front ticket booth.

Car Counts were excellent in both divisions. The spacious pit area is beyond the backstretch and the third/fourth turns. There were 33 sprint cars and 21 midgets, both excellent turnouts for a new track promoter and in the down economy. Site lines from the 3,500 seats (covered main grandstand and bleachers on the fourth turn side) are excellent. All 21 midgets started and finished the all-green midget feature in five minutes with only two cars lapped.

Route 66 Motorplex is a welcome addition for racing teams and fans. Drivers were pleased with the track and potential for growth. Racing in the spring and fall months offer the best chance for ideal weather conditions at the high desert facility, some 80 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Scott Burns and his team merit congratulations for their ambitious and successful first effort.


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Tim Kennedy
Tim Kennedy is a veteran motorsports journalist. He worked as the CRA sprint car publicity director for 11 years beginning in 1968 and his Racing Scene column has been a motorsports staple since 1979.