From Dick Jordan
Four USAC Champions will be crowned November 26 at the conclusion of the 69th Lucas Oil “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Calif.
One of America’s most revered racing traditions showcases the USAC Mopar National and Western Midget Series, the USAC Western Sprint Car Series and the USAC California Pavement Ford Focus Series in their only 2009 appearance at the facility which sports both a half-mile and a third-mile oval. The Midgets and Sprint cars compete on the half and the Focuses on the third.
The event honors the Agajanian Family, who continue to serve as the race organizers as they have for the past half-century. In their honor, the traditional 100-lap Midget race has become a 98-lapper. The famed #98 graced the Agajanian entry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for years and found victory lane there with Troy Ruttman in 1952 and Parnelli Jones in 1963.l
Brad Kuhn of Avon, Ind., Garrett Hansen of Manhattan Beach, Calif., Tanner Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. and Nik Romano of Atherton, Calif. are the respective point leaders entering Thursday’s action but only Kuhn’s lead is in any jeopardy.
Kuhn has a 40-point lead over Brad Sweet of Alpine, Calif. and 53-point edge over Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif. with a total of 66 points available. A 19th-place feature finish for Kuhn would eliminate Hagen and a 13th-place finish would eliminate Sweet. Last year, Cole Whitt posted an 11-th-place finish and beat Tracy Hines for the title by a single point in the closest USAC point race of all time!
Hansen sits atop the Western Midget standings, while Swanson is tops in the Western Sprints and Romano leads the California Pavement Ford Focus points. USAC Championships would be the first for Hansen and Romano, while Swanson is eyeing his second Western Sprint crown and Kuhn won the USAC Speedrome Midget title in 2005.
Over 200 laps of racing are on tap between during the “tripleheader” with 40-lap features for the Sprints and Focuses and the 98-lap Midget race following prelims.
Defending “Turkey Night” champions are Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. (Midgets), Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. (Sprints) and Alex Bowman of Tucson, Ariz. (Ford Focuses).
It’s been six years since track records fell at Irwindale and drivers will be aiming at those 2003 marks when qualifying commences Thursday. Dave Steele set the Midget mark of 16.556 in 2003, while Michael Lewis owns the Sprint record of 16.378 set the same year. Todd Hunsaker also established the Focus record of 14.249 in 2003.
It remains to be seen if USAC will have a new all-time car owner National feature victory leader after Thursday’s event. Car owners Steve Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif. and the Wilke-Pak Motorsports team from Milwaukee, Wisc. are currently tied for the all-time lead with a total of 133 wins apiece.