Power primed for a third Sonoma win

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It’s been a dry spell for Verizon Team Penske driver Will Power. The Australian powerhouse has, for various reasons, been stuck in a winless drought since Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April, 2012. A total of 25 races have passed since he emerged victorious.

But as Team Penske has consistently led the IndyCar contingent at Sonoma over the last three years – Power and former teammate Ryan Briscoe have won the last three races at Sonoma between them – this is as good a spot as any for Power to finally break his duck.

“I can’t wait to get back there. It’s a track I’ve had a lot of success on,” Power said in a media teleconference on Monday. “Although the competition has definitely heated up this year, we still expect to be running right at the front.”

Power discussed the improved competition level in IndyCar earlier this year in a MotorSportsTalk interview, and elaborated on it as one of the reasons why winning has gotten harder in 2013.

“There have been nine different winners this year, so it’s really hard to predict how fast you’re going to be, and you know, who is going to be in the front and who you’re going to be challenging,” he said. “The competition is definitely tougher, for sure. There are some things that were homologated at the end of last year, which gave us a little bit of an advantage and every other Chevy team. The car itself, you’re really boxed into a corner as far as setup. There’s not much adjustment on this car that you can do because of the way it was designed with this rearward weight distribution. So you’re stuck, and you can’t set it up to suit yourself. You have to drive it as it is. I think that that itself closes the field up.”

It should be a straightforward two-stop race at Sonoma, over the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma’s 85 laps (4 p.m EST, Sunday, NBCSN). The last couple years have seen fewer full-course cautions on permanent road courses (just one at Barber, zero at Mid-Ohio this year), which allows for maximum attack the entire race.

“That is the best possible scenario, if there is no yellows, because it means you don’t have to plan for anything,” Power said “Two‑on‑two, just a real race there; there’s no manipulation by a yellow. That’s been the case on quite a few of the road courses in the last couple years for INDYCAR. They have been very green races. Basically, it just shows that the level, the standard of driving, has done really ‑‑ has gone up a lot.  People don’t make mistakes anymore.”

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)