VENTURA, Calif – Tanner Thorson left the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway on Thursday evening a happy man after claiming his first USAC National Midget Series title.
Thorson entered the race with a slim nine-point lead, but left the track Thursday with an 18-point advantage over Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Spencer Bayston to claim the championship.
“I went into this race set on winning,” said Thorson, who finished sixth on Thursday night to claim the title. “I didn’t think about points all year until this race, so I wasn’t trying to make it a big deal to myself because it can get you worked up and it doesn’t allow you to perform your best. I just went out there to win the race.”
Bayston recovered from a spin just before halfway to finish ninth after restarting from the tail. It was an impressive feat in its own right to respond to adversity, but it would not warrant enough points for Bayston to surpass Thorson, who became the first Nevada native to claim the series title.
“I saw Spencer get tangled up and it was really unfortunate,” Thorson said. “You never want to see a teammate go out like that. It was unfortunate for him, but it worked in our favor. This whole team and our sponsors are what make this deal what it is. We have two of the best in the business in Keith (Kunz) and Big Al (Scroggins) who always put awesome cars underneath us.
“I came really close to getting the job done last year, but we came up a little bit short,” Thorson added. “This year, we were able to get it done even though we didn’t start the season the way we wanted. I remember we were leading the first race during Indiana Midget Week at Montpelier and popped a right rear tire. A few races later, we had an issue at ‘The Ditch’ (West Memphis, Ark.) and all that led to a not-so-great stretch. I didn’t think that we were going to be able to get the job done after those issues. Suddenly, though, we just started clicking. Every time I went out onto the track, I had an awesome car which allowed me to win a lot of races this year. That’s really the only thing that saved me this year. We got wins and stayed consistent after Midget Week and it allowed us to get the job done. It’s pretty incredible to be the champion. I’m speechless.”