USAC: Christopher Bell wins Turkey Night Grand Prix; Kyle Larson finishes 3rd

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A wild Turkey Night Grand Prix that featured four cautions and two red flags ended with Christopher Bell taking the checkered flag at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway, becoming the latest winner of one of midget racing’s most revered events.

Bell was also in contention for the USAC Honda Midget Series title last night, but ultimately lost out to teammate Rico Abreu, who locked up the title with a fifth-place finish behind Bell, Darren Hagen, Sprint Cup star Kyle Larson, and Zach Daum.

But joining the likes of A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, and Tony Stewart as a Turkey Night winner had to have softened that blow for Bell.

“This place was not really my favorite in my first couple trips here, but tonight the track came to me and was definitely to my liking,” Bell said afterwards. “Once it got up pretty high and slick underneath it, I really got into a rhythm.

“It’s great to add this race to our list and get my name on there with all the great guys who have won it before me. We had a shot at the championship tonight, but Rico got the job done. It’s a great accomplishment for our team and caps off an amazing year.”

Abreu, a 22-year-old from Rutherford, California, ended up winning the USAC Midget title over Bell by 10 points, with Tracy Hines (-46) finishing third in the standings. Abreu won four races on the dirt this year in USAC National Midget competition.

Larson, who cut his teeth on the dirt before ascending to the heights of NASCAR, avoided disaster after getting into the back of a lapped car while running sixth. He fell back into the pack, but made a late charge to score a podium finish.

“…After I got into the lapped car and went to the work area, it just was so much better,” he said. “They said they didn’t even really do anything, but we were really good. I would have loved a caution once I got to third, but I was so happy to get a podium. I thought I was gonna stall out about sixth.”

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”