VENTURA, Calif. – Carson Sousa couldn’t have picked a bigger stage to make his NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series debut on than the one he has this week.
Sousa will make his first series start during the largest midget event on the West Coast, the 79th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.
The 16-year-old outlaw kart standout will pilot a second entry from the Dalby Motorsports stable, racing as a teammate to Robert Dalby, the USAC Western States Midget Series point leader.
It’s an opportunity that Sousa didn’t necessarily expect to present itself, but one that he couldn’t pass up.
“We actually first met on iRacing,” Sousa recalled. “When we started talking and stuff and then I finally realized that (Robert) raced midgets, we started discussing putting a deal like this together, but I didn’t expect it at first. After we all agreed to it, we did some testing at Lemoore Raceway before we talked about Turkey Night. They let us come run it, so here we are.
“This is a dream come true for me,” he added. “I’ve always dreamed of running a midget, and especially at Turkey Night, so to even have this chance is more than I could have expected.”
Making his maiden voyage even more intriguing is the fact that Turkey Night will mark his first appearance in any car bigger than the outlaw karts he’s grown up running out west.
“Yeah, so this is the first time I’ve been in anything like this. It’s crazy, but I’m enjoying it,” Sousa noted. “It was different with the wing off. You’re more sideways than in the karts, and then having suspension … that was the big difference for me to really get used to.
“The midgets, you just have to drive it a little less hard, since you’re non-winged … and you’ll probably spin out if you’re driving it like an outlaw kart, honestly,” he explained. “So I’ve just had to take it easy. That was the biggest step, but I feel good now.”
That confidence showed on Wednesday’s practice charts, as well. Sousa was ninth-quick overall and fourth in the first of three sessions held for the midgets, while his teammate was second-fastest for the night and duly impressed with what he saw out of the teen.
“He’s just really smooth. He just uses his head,” said Dalby of Sousa. “He’s smooth on the throttle, on the wheel. I didn’t get to watch all the sessions, but I watched that last session there and he was laying down some good laps. I think he was reeling in Cory Elliott, who’s second in points … so that’s a good sign. He just makes clean, smooth laps though.
“I think (Sousa’s speed) comes from running the outlaw kart. I’ve never raced one, but the way those guys race and everything happens so quick … I feel like jumping into a midget here, everything is actually slowed down for him,” Dalby continued. “He just has to learn a little bit about the suspension, but otherwise he’s picked it up really quick.
“He’s done a really nice job and we’re hopeful of good things for both cars.”
While it’s his first USAC start, not to mention his first Turkey Night start, Sousa is holding solid goals going into the crown jewel event, which will feature upward of 70 cars racing.
“I just want to make the A, and then if we do that, hopefully finish the race,” Sousa noted. “I know there’s a rookie of the race award, but we’re just going to focus on a clean run and hopefully, if we can get in the show and stay out of trouble, we’ll have a shot at that too.
“I’m just excited, though. This is a big deal and we’re happy to be here doing this deal.”