Carl Edwards to say goodbye to Roush Fenway on Sunday, Jimmy Fennig heads to semi-retirement

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While this is a weekend of championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it’s also a weekend of goodbye’s:

* Marcos Ambrose is competing in his last Sprint Cup race (barring any future one-off races, particularly on road courses like Sonoma and Watkins Glen).

Ambrose is returning with his family to his native Australia to compete on the V8 Supercars Series, for a team co-owned by legendary owner Roger Penske.

Before he came to NASCAR, Ambrose was a two-time V8 Supercars champion.

* Sunday will be Steve Letarte’s last race as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Letarte will join NBC as an analyst on NASCAR telecasts next year.

* And Carl Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig will be spending their final race together, with both men going in different directions after Homestead.

Edwards is moving next season to Joe Gibbs Racing, following former RFR teammate Matt Kenseth, who moved to JGR in 2013.

Fennig, meanwhile, is retiring after 30 years as a crew chief, first in the American Speed Association (won a championship with Mark Martin in 1986) and then NASCAR.

Edwards, who was eliminated from the Chase last week at Phoenix – ending his hope of earning a Sprint Cup championship before leaving Roush Fenway Racing – on Sunday will compete in his 373rd and final race for the only Sprint Cup organization he’s known.

Edwards came close once before to winning a championship for RFR, tying for the title in 2011, but ended up second in the final standings when NASCAR was forced to go to the tie-breaker: most wins, which Tony Stewart had five to Edwards’ one.

Still, Edwards did win the Nationwide Series championship for RFR in 2007, sandwiched around four runner-up finishes in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Edwards has had good success in the Cup ranks at HMS. Since he fell short of being able to give a championship to Roush, a win in Sunday’s race would probably be the next best thing.

Edwards has two Sprint Cup wins at Homestead in 2008 and 2010, and also won a Nationwide Series event there in 2008. In 10 career Cup starts there, Edwards has an average start of 11.7 and an outstanding average finish of 6.6.

“Even though our run at the championship is over, I am really looking forward to Homestead,” Edwards said in his weekly media release. “It has been a great race track for us. I love racing there.

“It’s Ford Championship Week and I want to get a win for Jack Roush and Jimmy Fennig and all of my guys, because they have worked so hard this year. They did the impossible. We made the Chase and we have two wins.

“(Plus) we held on for nine races of the Chase with a shot of winning the championship. I am really proud of every one of them. I want to give the performance to finish the season the way that everyone deserves. That’s what I am going to do.

“Jimmy and I have talked and he is as fired up as ever and hopefully we can go and do a good job.”

Fennig, who won the first Chase for the Sprint Cup (known as the Chase for the Nextel Cup then) in 2004 with Kurt Busch, is essentially semi-retiring, but is expected to remain with RFR as a consultant.

In words that were said 10 years ago but are still true today, Jack Roush said of Fennig after he and Busch won the 2004 title:

“Jimmy Fennig is an unsung hero at Roush Racing. He doesn’t do things that create a personal image away from the driver or away from the sponsor or away from the team.

“He’s the trooper that’s back there doing everything that he can everyday.”

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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)