VENTURA, Calif. – USAC West Coast Midget racing legends Sleepy Tripp and Gary Zarounian have been named co-grand marshals for the 79th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix on Thanksgiving Night, Nov. 28, at California’s Ventura Raceway.
Tripp, of Costa Mesa, Calif., scored more USAC Midget victories than anyone in history. His total of 161 lists him third on the all-time USAC win list (across all series) behind Rich Vogler (171) and A.J. Foyt (162). The 1986 National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee won a pair of USAC National Midget titles (1975 and 1976) and seven championships in USAC’s Western Midget Series.
Tripp also earned notoriety for his exploits in New Zealand, which resulted in numerous major race victories and championships, including an amazing nine wins in the prestigious 50-lap Classic at Auckland. In 1985 and 1987, he also won the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. In addition to his United States and New Zealand successes, his career also included victories in Australia and Canada.
Zarounian, of Visalia, Calif., whose family owned and operated car dealerships throughout central California, immersed himself in not only auto racing but also in numerous business ventures. The Zarounian team hired the best drivers in the business and their success was immense. In addition to eight USAC Silver Crown victories and 11 in the USAC National Midget wars, the team fielded cars for drivers like Tripp.
During the 1980s and 1990s the Tripp-Zarounian Western team was nearly unbeatable. Tripp won 78 USAC Western States Midget races aboard Zarounian’s immaculately-prepared No. 67. In all, Zarounian cars won 88 Western States Midget features between 1983 and 2000 with drivers Tripp, Ken Nichols, Jeff Gordon, Donnie Beechler, Pat Bliss and Tony Hunt. Nine of Zarounian’s 88 victories came at Ventura Raceway, all with Tripp. Zarounian was previously inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2017.
The 2019 edition of the Turkey Night Grand Prix begins Wednesday, November 27 and closes out on Thursday, November 28, the 98-lap main event for the USAC NOS Energy Drink National and Western States Midgets. Also in action both nights are the USAC West Coast and VRA 360 Sprint Cars, who’ll clash in special non-point races and the finale of the ARP Battle of the Beach mini-series.