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.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.