Force India hopes to be more of a force this weekend in Bahrain

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Sahara Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg look to recapture results close to what they achieved a couple years ago for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The two teammates had their best Bahrain finishes there in 2014. Perez finished third, while Hulkenberg wound up two spots behind in fifth. It was Perez’s first podium with Force India and snapped a five-year podium drought for the team dating to the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second.

“I have some very good memories from Bahrain,” Perez said in the team’s advance release. “The race in 2014 was just fantastic when I celebrated my first podium with the team.”

Perez would like another podium at Bahrain, where he’s finished 11th, sixth, third and eighth in his four career starts there.

With his first time there in 2010, Hulkenberg has made five starts in Bahrain: 14th, 12th, 12th, fifth and 13th.

“Bahrain is a special place,” Hulkenberg said. “As a circuit, it’s very different to Melbourne: it’s not bumpy at all; it’s very smooth and it’s full of slow corners.

“There are a several overtaking spots and the whole track, with long straights and big braking zones, makes for some great wheel-to-wheel racing. It’s a track that rewards attacking, so hopefully we will see lots of action in the race.”

In this year’s season opening race at Melbourne, Hulkenberg finished seventh, while Perez was 13th.

“We’ve started the season in the right way by getting some points on the board, even though we had the potential to come away from Australia with many more,” Hulkenberg said.

“The red flag came out at the worst possible moment for our strategy and that cost us some positions, but we still managed to fight back and come away with an important seventh place: I am happy with that.”

Perez wasn’t as happy with his own outing at Melbourne.

“Australia didn’t bring the result I was hoping, for so I am targeting a better outcome from Bahrain,” Perez said. “Getting a bad start really compromised my race last time out because I got stuck in the middle of cars on different strategies and I couldn’t recover.”

Perez added, “I am confident we can be strong again this year and get back all the points I missed in Australia. There were lots of positives we can build on, such as our strong qualifying speed and race pace.”

Team Principal Vijay Mallya is optimistic of an even better showing for both drivers.

“On paper Bahrain should be a strong track for us so I’m optimistic we can deliver a similar level of performance to that which we showed in Melbourne,” he said. “We will have some new aerodynamic developments, which will add some performance to the front of the car, so we will work hard to optimize those during the weekend.”

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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)