Long Beach: The rest of the racing series lineup

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The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend is one of the busiest on the calendar. Although the Verizon IndyCar Series is the headliner there’s plenty of other action to look forward to over the course of the 40th running:

  • TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. What a shift it will be for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which goes from 36 hours of racing in Florida to kick off the year to 100 minutes of racing at the historic streets. With only 21 cars entered, traffic shouldn’t be an issue nearly as bad as the 60-plus cars combined of the series’ four classes. Just P and GT Le Mans race this weekend, and there should be a bevy of action for both in Saturday’s race.
  • Pirelli World Challenge. Also down in car count from its season opener, but like the TUDOR Championship, it’s due to limited available paddock space in Long Beach. As it is, there’s still going to be 40 cars – 20 apiece between GT and GTS – ringing their necks out in the 50-minute sprint race Sunday following the IndyCar race. Some great battles emerged at St. Pete; although overall winner Tomas Enge isn’t competing due to a prior conflict, still plenty of cars and stars to watch.
  • Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The only rung of the Mazda Road to Indy that makes the trip out to Long Beach, there’s been a wealth of success achieved by eventual series champions in this race. Nine drivers won Long Beach and later won the title that same year: Paul Tracy (1990), Eric Bachelart (’91), Steve Robertson (’94), Greg Moore (’95), David Empringham (’96), Cristiano da Matta (’98), Scott Dixon (2000), Townsend Bell (’01) and, most recently, J.R. Hildebrand in 2009. Of the 12 drivers entered, only St. Petersburg winner Zach Veach, Gabby Chaves and Juan Pablo Garcia have past track experience – the other nine are all making their track debuts.
  • Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Always a highlight of the weekend, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race Saturday afternoon is both a great charity fundraiser and a chance for potential carnage, although things have cleaned up in recent years. The entry list is linked here.
  • SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks. Robby Gordon’s series makes an encore to the streets of Long Beach on Sunday afternoon. The jumps surrounding the 1.968-mile street course are going to be pounded as the trucks hit them.
  • Super Drift. The night-cap on Friday and Saturday provides a bit of action to match the Southern California car culture. Drifting is always a treat to watch around the streets of Long Beach.

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)