VENTURA, Calif. – Though it has been held at numerous race tracks through the years, most notably at iconic Ascot Park, the format for the Turkey Night Grand Prix has largely undergone little change.
This year’s event, set for Nov. 27-28 at the fifth-mile Ventura Raceway, may be a look back into the past for the crown jewel event from a competitive standpoint, as more than 60 cars are expected to compete at the seaside dirt oval.
Dating back to 1934, the iconic midget car event has seen such winners as Tony Stewart, Bryan Clauson, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and many more. Ron Shuman is the all-time leading Turkey Night winner with eight victories in the Thanksgiving night event – including four straight from 1979 to 1982.
But how does one get in the field at the Turkey Night Grand Prix in order to win it? Here’s a refresher.
In contrast to most of the events on the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series schedule, the Turkey Night Grand Prix actually locks drivers straight into the main from Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying.
The top 10 drivers on qualifying time from two-lap time trials will proceed into the 98-lap feature event, starting straight up on time – meaning the fastest driver from qualifying earns the Turkey Night pole.
From there, the rest of the field will be split into three 12-lap qualifying races – or heat races, if you will – with the top four drivers in each of those events moving on into the feature as well.
Those who finish fifth through 10th in their 12-lap qualifier go to the Last Chance Showdown, while anyone 11th on back in the qualifiers is done for the whole event.
That gives everyone in the 15-lap Last Chance Showdown one final shot to make the big dance, with the top four in the LCS making the field and all others, sans provisional starters, done for the event.
Two USAC National and two USAC Western States provisionals are possible, based on points and availability, making for a potential starting field of 30 cars for the Thanksgiving night classic.
Thursday night’s feature is 98 laps in distance, nodding to the Agajanian family’s famed car number in American open-wheel racing for decades. The winner of the event receives the famed Aggie trophy.
As for the purse, the Turkey Night winner banks $6,000 for his or her efforts, with the runner-up earning $3,000 and third place claiming $2,000. All feature starters earn a minimum of $450 to take the green.
The pit gates open at 11:45 a.m. PT on Wednesday and 11 a.m. on Thursday, with grandstands opening at 3 p.m. PT both days and hot laps starting at 3:15 p.m.