PERRIS, Calif. – Oval Entertainment and Agajanian Promotions have secured the rights to host the Turkey Night Grand Prix USAC midget race at Perris Auto Speedway through the 2014 season.
After 13 straight years of running on pavement, the TNGP made a triumphant return to the dirt on Thanksgiving night when rising young superstar Kyle Larson won the 98-lap main event on the famous Riverside County clay oval.
“The announcement that the Turkey Night Grand Prix is staying at The PAS is an early Christmas present,” Perris Auto Speedway promoter Don Kazarian said. “From the time it was announced that it was coming back to The PAS in August until Kyle Larson took the checkered flag on Thanksgiving night, the interest and excitement was at a fever pitch. It was incredible.”
Soon after the annual race took place, Kazarian got together with Cary and J.C. Agajanian of Agajanian Promotions and they all decided to keep the race at The PAS for the next two years.
“I think it was one of the best Turkey Night races I have seen in many years,” J.C. Agajanian said by phone last week. “It was just phenomenal. It exceeded my expectations. We could not have had better weather or better racing at any track in country than we had on Thanksgiving night.”
Returning to the dirt brought out the emotions and memories to drivers, car owners, fans and even officials.
“The PAS itself is an emotional place for me,” Agajanian stated. “When I walk into Perris, I have the feeling that I am walking into Ascot years ago. It harkens back to the days of Ascot and the National champions who raced there. The Parnelli Jones’, the A.J. Foyt’s, the Mario Andretti’s, the Unser’s and the Tony Stewart’s. The point is, the great drivers who have come through Turkey Night at Ascot all came back to mind when I walked in and looked at the field at Perris.”
Agajanian also reflected on 2012 winner Larson.
“He is the future,” Agajanian said of the young Northern California native. “That is the mystique of Ascot. Time and time again we have seen the kids with their eyes wide open running Turkey Night and rubbing shoulders with the best open wheel racers in the country. Then these kids all go on to become the next great racecar drivers. It all passes through Turkey Night. It is a right of passage. If you remember when Tony Stewart won Turkey Night, he said, ‘this is the one race I needed to put in my portfolio and I was more excited to win Turkey Night than I was for any of the cup races that I have won.'”
The return of Turkey Night to The PAS brought the Kazarian’s and Agajanian’s, two of the most prominent families in the history of Southern California racing, together to promote the mega event.
“It was just a pleasure to work with the Agajanian’s on bringing the Turkey Night Grand Prix back to dirt in 2012,” Kazarian said. “I could not be happier than to say I am working with them on this great Midget event for the next two years as well. All of our negotiations have went extremely well and they are very easy to work with. It is not always that way with others in the racing industry.”
Agajanian echoed Kazarian’s statement.
“At the end of the night I told Don that it was a joy to work with him,” Agajanian said. “Other tracks, that will remain unnamed, have been difficult to deal with. I don’t if it is an ego or whether people are different. From the first meeting when my brother Cary and I met with Don in his office until the end of the Turkey Night event, it was a joy to work with Don Kazarian and each person from Perris Auto Speedway. Everything has just been exciting.”
The success of that night has quickly brought the return for two more years. The pre-race excitement, a large, enthusiastic crowd and a great race made it an easy decision to bring the event back to The PAS. Soon after the 2012 Turkey Night Grand Prix, Agajanian received a call from Kazarian.
“Donnie called me and said, ‘lets have a meeting,'” Agajanian said. “We had a phone meeting between Cary, Don and I. Don told us he would like to be able to say he is hosting it for two years. It can be important for the crowd count, the car count and for sponsors to know in advance the race will be there. Cary and I were both thrilled at the way the event was held at Perris and we talked and both agreed it was the right thing to do (keeping the event at Perris). Fresh off a wonderful event, the decision ended up being easy.”
“We had always hoped for Turkey Night returning to The PAS,” Kazarian said. “It was a dream and it turned out even better than we anticipated. It is the crown jewel of Midget racing. It will mean another great month of November in 2013 for The PAS with 73rd running of Turkey Night, the 18th Annual Budweiser Oval Nationals and the 2nd Annual 1-800-LoanMart Street Stock Turkey Bowl.”
One thing the two promotional parties have planned for 2013 is the winner of the Oval Nationals will be seeded directly into the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
“Plans are to have a top notch ride in the Turkey Night Grand Prix for the winner of the Budweiser Oval Nationals,” Kazarian said. “It will be an extra perk for the Oval Nationals winner. If that driver already has a ride, then it will go to the second place driver. Same if the first two have already rides, it will then go to the third place finisher. We will go until somebody gets that coveted ride.”
Kazarian is also excited that there will be a full year to promote the 2013 event.
“The 2012 Turkey Night Grand Prix was a fantastic race,” the promoter said from behind his desk with a smile. “It was a dream come true and we expect 2013 to be even better. Last year, with the uncertainty of the situation at Irwindale, we only had three months to plan for the race. For 2013, we will have nearly a year. It is going to be a cannot miss event for all racing fans.”