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Kyle Larson Captures FourthARP Turkey Night Grand Prix

The nation’s oldest dirt track race, the 82nd running of the famed ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway, is in the books. Claiming the unique event trophy —a 1/4-scale replica of the fabled #98 roadster of J.C. Agajanian that Parnelli Jones won the Indy 500 with in 1963 (crafted by Ventura Raceway promoter Jim Naylor) and a $10,000 check from event sponsor ARP— was wheelman extraordinaire Kyle Larson. The Turkey Night win marked the fourth for the native Californian, who previously won in 2012, 2016 and 2019. Larson’s HendrickCars.com liveried machine started the event in the 10th position, slotted behind the likes of 2021 winner Logan Seavey (2nd) and last year’s champion, Justin Grant (5th). There were almost 50 Midgets on the grounds at USAC’s season-ending event, with 26 making it to the 98-lap Feature.

At the drop of the green flag 2021 Turkey Night winner Logan Seavey jumped into the lead from his outside front row position, with pole sitter Ryan Timms hot on his heels. Misfortune struck on the next lap, with Taylor Reimer collecting Michael Faccinito and on the opposite side of the 1/5- mile high banked oval the packed house saw Mitchel Moles and Brady Fuson cartwheeling down the track and ending up on their lids. Racing resumed after the track was cleared, with Seavey jumping to a full straightway lead, while Larson was busy moving through traffic. By the 18th lap Kyle had moved into the fifth position, and on lap 22 he slithered past defending Turkey Night champion Justin Grant into the fourth spot. Up front, Seavey and Timms were dicing for the lead; with Timms pulling it off on lap 26. But on the next lap Seavey gained the advantage, with Timms’ wheels locking up and bringing out the caution flags…and collecting promising rookie Kale Drake —who was in 3rd place at the time. On the restart Seavey resumed his lead, with Larson in close pursuit. Changing track conditions from the track drying out factored into the strategy, as Larson slid into the lead at turn 3. From that point on it was clear sailing. Almost. Corey Day, who wrapped up this year’s NARC Sprint Car championship, was hot on his heels —but ultimately fell about two car lengths short at the end, trailing Larson by a scant 0.224 seconds. Day earned “Rookie of the Race” plaudits for his efforts —the strongest by a newcomer in many years— while third spot on the podium was spectacularly garnered by Carson Macedo, who clipped the turn 4 cushion, tagged the outside wall and flipped immediately after the checkered flag was given. The “Hard Charger” award went to Emerson Axsom, of Franklin, Indiana, who started in 24th place and wound up 6th. The USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series shared the ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix with the Midgets. The presenting sponsor for both events was the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame. Defending champion Ryan Timms, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was again the class of the field, dominating all 30 laps. Starting on the pole as a result of winning the 15-lap Extreme Mufflers Dash, Timms shared the podium with 2nd place Brody Fuson (who started 3rd) and Ricky Lewis (up from 10th). Heat races were won by Grant Sexton, Max Adams, Ricky Lewis, Davey Pombo, Blake Bower and Eddie Tafoya, Jr. The Qualifier round wins went to Chase Johnson, Ryan Timmons, Cole Watkins and Ryan Timms —with the two Semis won by Kyle Edwards and David Gasper. The ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix was first run in 1934 at the fabled Gilmore Stadium in Hollywood (the current location of CBS Television City), with oval track racing icon J.C. Agajanian taking over promoting the event in 1955. His family continues their involvement. Ventura Raceway, which
borders the Pacific Ocean in Ventura, California, has been home to the event since 2016.

Photos: Michael Fry