EDITOR’S NOTE: With this year’s planned 80th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re taking a look back at last year’s edition of the Thanksgiving Classic, highlighted by a fierce duel between a young gun and a veteran!
The following is Sprint Car & Midget’s race report from the 2019 Turkey Night feature.
VENTURA, Calif. – Kyle Larson made a late charge past Cannon McIntosh and held on through a double-overtime finish at Ventura Raceway to win his third Turkey Night Grand Prix on Friday night.
The 79th running of the Thanksgiving Classic, postponed a day due to weather, actually finished in the early hours of Saturday morning due to a rain shower that halted the proceedings mid-way through.
But neither the rain nor a 13th-place starting spot could stop Larson from kissing the iconic Aggie Trophy at the end of 98 laps, as he charged through the field before making the winning pass on a restart with 11 to go.
From there, Larson raced away down the stretch, despite several late-race incidents that brought McIntosh back to his bumper in the waning moments.
Larson took the twin checkers in front by .893 seconds with the No. 1k Lucas Oil/iRacing King-Speedway Toyota for his 19th career NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series win, fourth of the season and third in a row to close out the year.
It was his fifth win in six starts since debuting his own Kyle Larson Racing midget entry, but Friday night’s victory wasn’t easy, as a rough-and-tumble Ventura surface wreaked havoc on the Turkey Night field.
“It’s a great feeling to win this event for the third time. I’ve always run well in the Turkey Night Grand Prix, and to get another one means a lot,” said Larson in victory lane. “I had to work hard for that one; everybody did, just to get to the checkered flag. That (track) was extremely rough, but that made it fun too, because it was extremely challenging and the ruts changed all throughout the night.
“Hats off to everyone at Ventura who worked so hard to get this one in. At one point, when it was raining, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to,” he admitted. “But glad we did and we’re the ones celebrating.”
Though Larson was the eventual winner, McIntosh was the start of the show for nearly three-quarters of the distance at the beachside, fifth-mile dirt oval.
The 16-year-old Oklahoma young gun drove from third to first – passing polesitter Kevin Thomas Jr. and Spencer Bayston on a lap-21 restart on the outside – and fended off all challengers for most of the night.
McIntosh drove like a veteran and opened up a lead of more than four seconds at times, appearing much like a rookie who could win the Turkey Night Grand Prix and etch his name in the history books.
However, the right-rear radius rod broke off McIntosh’s family-owned No. 08 with roughly 20 to go, hampering the handling and drivability of his car and making him easy prey for Larson in the final laps.
It showed when Larson caught McIntosh in traffic and rapped on his rear nerf bar just before Jesse Colwell stopped at the flagstand to bring out the race-changing yellow with 87 laps complete.
That set up a restart with Larson on McIntosh’s tail, and when the teenager hit a rut just the wrong way in turn three on the 88th rotation, Larson pounced with a run to the outside and never looked back.
“Cannon, I really do feel like had the best car,” Larson noted. “He was really fast. I finally noticed the issue he was having with the right-rear radius rod on the caution right before I got around him, and at that point I knew I had to put together a good lap to get by him quick. Luckily I was able to get through (turns) one and two well, and then got past him over there in three and four. That was a big move.”
Issues for Ben Worth brought out a yellow with seven laps left, following which McIntosh briefly pressured Larson once more, but after that it was no contest out front.
Not even a flip by Tyler Courtney after the white flag, or a subsequent spin in turn one by Rico Abreu on the first overtime restart, could stop Larson from taking home the $6,000 winner’s prize at that point.
McIntosh came home a bittersweet second and was declared Don Basile Rookie of the Race, becoming the highest-finishing first-time Turkey Night starter since the inception of the award in 1998.
Spencer Bayston completed the podium, just ahead of Jason McDougal and Carson Macedo.
Courtney’s championship season in the USAC National Midget Series came to a close with his end-over on lap 97, relegating him to an 18th-place finish. Meanwhile, Robert Dalby retired before halfway but still hung on to claim the USAC Western States Midget Series title over rival Cory Elliott.
1. Kyle Larson , 2. Cannon McIntosh , 3. Spencer Bayston , 4. Jason McDougal , 5. Carson Macedo , 6. Buddy Kofoid , 7. Logan Seavey , 8. Tanner Carrick , 9. Shane Golobic , 10. Ryan Bernal , 11. Jake Swanson , 12. Zeb Wise , 13. Jerry Coons Jr. , 14. Chris Windom , 15. Ben Worth , 16. Jesse Colwell , 17. Rico Abreu , 18. Tyler Courtney , 19. Daison Pursley , 20. Colby Copeland , 21. C.J. Sarna , 22. Michael Pickens , 23. Kevin Thomas Jr. , 24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , 25. Thomas Meseraull , 26. Robert Dalby , 27. Gio Scelzi , 28. Cory Elliott , 29. Chase Johnson , 30. Austin Liggett .
Lap Leader(s): Kevin Thomas Jr. 1-20, Cannon McIntosh 21-87, Kyle Larson 88-98.
Hard Charger: #17w – Shane Golobic (+15)
Don Basile Rookie of the Race: #08 – Cannon McIntosh