Ray Evernham wins prestigious awards for restoration of Mario Andretti’s rookie Indy Car

(Provided photos)
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Ray Evernham is a firm believer in what’s old can be new again.

That’s part of the reason why Evernham’s perfect restoration of Mario Andretti’s 1965 Brawner Hawk took top honors at the famed Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance.

Andretti drove the Brawner Hawk to both the 1965 USAC National Championship, as well as 1965 Rookie of the Year honors (finished third) at the Indianapolis 500.

Now, Evernham’s restoration of the car won Best in Class – Race Cars (1961-1967), as well as the Phil Hill Restorer’s Award. According to a media release, the Phil Hill award “is an award created to honor the artisan whose restoration of a classic, antique, historic or competition car is judged the best new restoration in its first concours appearance.”

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Ray Evernham and Jim McGee, former crew chief for Mario Andretti, worked together on restoring Andretti’s rookie Indy Car from 1965.

“From the historian’s point of view, Ray Evernham’s ’65 Brawner Hawk is a pivotally important car,” Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, said in a media release. “It crystalizes a moment of monumental change in American race car design and construction: a true ‘technological changing of the guard’ — the first American-built rear engine car to win the national championship.”

But the best is yet to come: Evernham’s winning restoration will appear at the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 in May. An added bonus: Andretti will get behind the wheel of his rookie Indy Car for the first time in a half-century.

“I’ve been a lifelong fan of Mario Andretti,” Evernham said. “I watched him race growing up and have always admired his talent, his business leadership, his commitment to philanthropy and his passion for the sport.

“To be able to restore his rookie Indy Car was truly a special opportunity. I can’t thank (Andretti’s crew chief in 1965) Jim McGee enough for leading the restoration of the car and am thrilled the Brawner Hawk was not only recognized for its historical significance but also for all of the effort Jim and the team put into it.”

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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)