The 82nd Running of the Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix was packed with high-stakes racing action from start to finish.  NASCAR champion, Kyle Larson, put on a racing clinic to win the big event after qualifying 10th before a sold-out Ventura Raceway crowd.

Going to this race was quite a bit out of the ordinary for someone coming from a road-racing background, however I found out that we weren’t alone. As it turns out, the fellow sitting next to us was an SCCA and vintage racer in Formula Vee. A kid behind us in the grandstand was wearing a Nacional hat made popular by the late Ayrton Senna. Another guy there was wearing his “200 mph club” Bonneville jacket while numerous others were sporting shirts/hats or jackets from the NHRA, NASCAR and Indy car! Of course there were also plenty of fans on hand with their favorite circle track drivers emblazoned on their apparel. 

Watching a true professional who races just about anything, anywhere, anytime proved Larson’s immense talent isn’t just dumb luck. It was fascinating to see him work his way patiently, yet deliberately, through the field from his starting spot. Early on he was even passed and relegated back a spot or two. However, he was not deterred and experimented with the high line, low line and even using the cushion as well as a traditional road racing line of turn-in, apex, track-out from the top to the bottom and back to the top again. I’m sure he was watching and learning and feeling how the dirt track was evolving. Once he got to the front, he stayed on the low line and although other competitors were close behind, they couldn’t pass. The track had evolved to where the low line picked up rubber (yes even on dirt) and grip and essentially speed. Trying to pass on the high line or even trying a “slide job” was not working as the lack of grip from starting up top was not working. What amazed me while watching him was to see that even if he made a slight mistake on his turn-in point or had a wee bit more slide heading to his apex, he was always precisely on his apex point with metronomic consistency. The guy in second place was inconsistent enough to drop back and get close but you knew that these two positions would not change unless Larson made a mistake. That never happened and he became a four-time winner of the event.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2023 Larry Mason

Kyle Larson won the prestigious 82nd running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix and took home the giant $10,000 check!Photo by Albert Wong

A sold out crowd packing the grandstands watch the drivers get their bump start from Jeeps and other assorted vehicles.Photo by Albert Wong

Larson was poetry in motion with smoothness and quick reflexes harnessing the power to get the most grip on the dirt. Second place driver Corey Day fought hard to win but came up one spot short. Former podcast interviewee, Spencer Bayston, ran as high as third but dropped out with a mechanical problem.Photo by Albert Wong

Who’s number one? Larson kisses the bronzed Stetson hat trophy of the late JC Agajanian Sr while JC Agajanian Jr. enjoys the moment with the (now) four-time winner. The trophy behind Larson is the Indy 500 winning car (replica) of Parnelli Jones. The Agajanians have four Indy winners and you can hear about them here..Photo by Albert Wong

The perpetual JC Agajanian Stetson trophy is unique in motorsports. This close-up of the plaque, tells the story.

Photos Copyright © by Larry Mason