Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura

The Headline(s)

USAC national champion driver Justin Grant proved the last man standing in winning the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway, the final USAC national race of 2022.

How it Happened

2022 Turkey Night Grand Prix (USAC National Midgets)
Where: Ventura Raceway – Ventura, Calif. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $10,000

Justin Grant didn’t win the USAC midgets title this year, but the newly crowned USAC national champion (he started all features across the three USAC national tours in 2022) scored the season finale at Ventura, prevailing in a furious battle with Chili Bowl Nationals champion Tanner Thorson and then keeping Kyle Larson at bay coming to the checkered flag.

Grant’s win came in an absolute marathon of a 98-lap race that was slowed by four red flags and one where it proved absolutely hazardous to be the race leader. Lap 45 saw leader Buddy Kofoid go for a violent ride down the backstretch after Thorson jumped the cushion and drove right into the reigning USAC midget champion.

Cannon McIntosh grabbed the lead from there and held it until he jumped the cushion himself, stalling out on the top of turn 4 and handing the lead to Carson Macedo. The World of Outlaws regular then took himself out, jumping the cushion and flipping in turn 1 with 21 laps to go.

That finally handed the lead to Grant, who ended up in the best dogfight of the evening battling with Thorson for the race lead, a battle that went on until Thorson spun himself out in the runner-up spot.

2022 TURKEY NIGHT GRAND PRIX RACE RESULTS

Success Stories

One other note regarding Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Grant.

Jake Andreotti capped his Rookie of the Year campaign in USAC midget racing with a fourth-place run in the Turkey Night Grand Prix that was notable not only in that it came in such a long race, but in that it was largely uneventful despite the non-stop calamity that seemed to find the frontrunners all race long.

Young gun Ryan Timms won the USAC Western States sprint car feature Saturday night (Nov. 26) despite having to replace a right-rear shock after the push truck ran over his car early in the event (more on that later).

The seven or so laps that saw Grant and Thorson battling for the race lead were damn good and clean to boot. To see Thorson, who has fallen off the radar a bit after his Chili Bowl Nationals win (winged racing didn’t take) and Grant race as hard as they did without turning midget racing into a full-contact demolition derby as so many midget races have in 2022 was a welcome development. It’s a shame it took as long as it did in the evening to to get to that point. 

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Having said that, while Thorson ran Grant fair and clean, he was absolutely the villain in Saturday night’s Turkey Night Grand Prix, whether intentional or not. Fact, it was Thorson’s out of shape car that sent race leader Kofoid flipping down the backstretch. Fact, it was Thorson that got out of shape and triggered a yellow flag shortly after the Kofoid incident, collecting Tyler Courtney, Emerson Axsom and Thomas Meseraull. And fact, Thorson brought out his third flag of the race when he spun running second inside of 10 laps to go. Messy.

See the video earlier. Kofoid absolutely endured the hardest wreck of the Turkey Night Grand Prix.

Prior to that, Kaylee Bryson ended up taking a hard hit despite not flipping end over end when a high-side move sent her smack into a spinning lapped car. 

Between Kofoid, McIntosh and Macedo, three different drivers wrecked or spun out of the race lead in a span of 33 laps.

NASCAR Regulars

Cup Series regular Larson rebounded from a spinout during qualifying to win hard charger honors in the Turkey Night Grand Prix, going from 22nd to second in the feature. 

Fanning the Flames

The Turkey Night Grand Prix ran nearly seven hours Saturday night despite being a two-class program. Who knew southern California and the Deep South had so much in common?

Said commentator Chet Christner midway through the marathon second sprint car heat Friday “it doesn’t matter if you win… gotta get those passing points.” And this is why passing points should be burned, buried and poured concrete over.

Things I’ve never seen before. The push truck operator ran over the right-rear tire of leader Timms during the sprint car support feature Saturday. As if a seven-hour racing program caused at least in part by running a field of over 100 cars, none of which were capable of starting themselves, wasn’t reason enough to say this. SPRINT CARS NEED STARTERS. If the Williams Grove bridge isn’t timeless, neither are push starts. 

It’s worth noting that the Turkey Night Grand Prix is a heavyweight crown in midget racing that drew a huge car count and packed grandstands. Yet the winner’s payout was the same as the Chili Bowl Nationals, $10,000 to win. The sport’s competitors can’t seem to get out of their own way.

Though Bryson had a night to forget in Ventura, I will say I was excited to hear the Flo Racing crew hinting that she will be running the USAC Silver Crown Series full time in 2023. Bryson will bring attention to that series that it desperately deserves, as it is arguably the best thing going in dirt racing right now. 

If they’re going to insist on calling this race a grand prix, can we get a time limit to go with it? Chili Bowl track prep gets done quicker.

Anyone else hear how loud the crowd got when Larson roughed his way past Kevin Thomas Jr. for second with two laps to go? Dude doesn’t need to be Bubba Wallace’s nemesis to get an ovation.

Numbers Game

5

Race leaders during Saturday night’s Turkey Night Grand Prix feature.

7

Flip/tip count during the Turkey Grand Prix midget program Saturday.

62

Midgets entered in the Turkey Grand Prix at Ventura.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give the Turkey Night Grand Prix two and a half glasses of cheap wine that your parents bought for the big dinner. The closing laps were unpredictable, with Grant and Thorson putting on a pitched battle.

But a seven-hour program chock full of yellow flags is a chore to watch any night of the week. And trying to do so on West Coast time with tryptophan flowing through the bloodstream was a literal chore. 

Up Next: The final Thinkin’ Dirty of 2022 head to All-Tech Raceway for the inaugural Sunshine State 50. Coverage from the $40,000-to-win feature Saturday can be found on RaceXR.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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