VENTURA, Calif. – Jason McDougal received the prestigious Don Basile Rookie of the Race Award for his solid performance during Thursday night’s Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway.
McDougal started 17th after transferring in from one of the three qualifying races earlier in the program, but slowly and methodically worked his way forward to finish eighth at the end of 98 laps around the fifth-mile Ventura County Fairgrounds dirt oval.
McDougal, from Broken Arrow, Okla., already had a highlight moment in a sprint car this season after earning his first USAC victory in September at Missouri’s Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, but success in a midget had eluded him until his strong Thanksgiving run in the Petry Motorsports No. 15.
“Man, it got a little wild there at the end, but the track we got out there was absolutely phenomenal,” McDougal told SPEED SPORT. “We had a top, we had a bottom and it was so much fun out there. I hope all the fans enjoyed the show, because it was pretty great from where I was sitting.
“Behind (top-two finishers Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell), what I could see was two- and three-wide racing. I don’t think I went a full lap by myself that entire race; I was double-stacked the entire time. It made for some hectic moments at times, but like I said, I enjoyed every minute of it.”
McDougal admitted afterwards that despite Thursday night’s race being the longest of the USAC season, he didn’t feel fatigued after climbing from his car on the frontstretch.
“Honestly, that was the shortest 98 laps of my life, because I was ready to get it over with,” McDougal said with a grin. “But being the (top-finishing) rookie of this race is such an honor and it’s a great way to top off my season.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum built up to this point, and I’m hopeful of that continuing and thankful for Scott Petry for helping me get to where I’m at today.”
The Don Basile Rookie of the Race Award is presented annually to the top-finishing rookie at the Turkey Night Grand Prix and is named in honor of the late Basile, who promoted the Turkey Night Grand Prix for nearly two decades (1955-1972) alongside the Agajanian family at Ascot Park.
The award was established following Basile’s passing on Oct. 21, 1998, just a month prior to the 58th running of Turkey Night.
McDougal joins an exclusive club of drivers who have received the perpetual ice-bucket trophy, including inaugural recipient Kasey Kahne, who earned the honor with a similar fifth-place finish in the 1998 edition of the Thanksgiving classic.
The late Dave Steele (1999), Bobby East (2001), Brad Loyet (2004), Kevin Swindell (2005), Kody Swanson (2006), Dalton Armstrong (2010), Kyle Larson (2011), Tanner Thorson (2013), Carson Macedo (2016) and Zeb Wise (2017) are also former Don Basile Turkey Night Rookies of the Race.
“This is amazing,” McDougal said. “I never thought I’d be a rookie at the Turkey Night Grand Prix to begin with, so to receive this award and know that out of all the names who were fighting for this trophy this year … that we ended up with it, that’s pretty special in my book.
“There’s a lot of guys who have gone on to do amazing things in racing that are on this trophy. It’s surreal to be a part of that list with so many of them.”