Third win at the Glen not to be for Marcos Ambrose

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For Marcos Ambrose, Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen could be classified as “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Unfortunately for the Australian road-racing ace, the Good, Bad and Ugly parts happened in precisely that order.

Let’s start with the Good: Ambrose started on the pole in his quest for a third consecutive victory at the Glen, and as expected, was the dominant driver for the first two-thirds of the race.

But things went Bad on Lap 60, when the caution came out after his teammate Aric Almirola blew a tire on his car and then went off into the tire barriers at Turn 5. That was a rough twist of fate for Ambrose, who had yet to make a green-flag stop before the incident with Almirola.

Forced to pit under yellow, he was shuffled all the way back to 14th for the subsequent restart while eventual race winner Kyle Busch – who had pitted prior to Almirola’s crash – rose to the lead.

Stuck in traffic, Ambrose had only made minimal progress when things got Ugly on a restart with six laps left in the 90-lap event.

Going up through the esses, Ambrose appeared to slide out of the groove and up into the path of Max Papis, who then made contact with Ambrose that sent him slamming into the retaining wall.

His day now completely ruined, Ambrose removed and threw the steering wheel against the side of his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford before sliding out of the car. He then ripped off his helmet and HANS device and chucked those in as well before being safety workers brought him away from the scene.

Ambrose believed something had broken on his car, and he felt that made him susceptible to getting caught in an accident after the green came out.

“I just couldn’t get going on the restart,” he said. “I thought something was wrong. I was talking to the guys on the radio and we decided to stay out there just to see if it was gonna be driveable, but it wasn’t.

“I was in the way heading up the hill and got dumped by somebody. I’m not sure who it was and I just ended up in the fence.”

After leading a race-high 51 laps, Ambrose was forced to swallow a 31st-place finish while Busch managed to turn back a last-lap assault from Brad Keselowski to win.

Still, Ambrose praised his team for a “strong showing.”

“It wasn’t our day, but we’ve had plenty of good days here,” he said. “We just need to reflect on this and we’ll wake up tomorrow and just press on and go to the next one.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)