Franzoni dominates in USF2000 in Monterey

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MONTEREY, Calif. – A caution-free, 30-minute race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda, saw Victor Franzoni and ArmsUp Motorsports continue their weekend domination.

The Brazilian led flag-to-flag from pole in the 21-lap race for his second win of the season, fourth in USF2000, and won by 12.9597 seconds.

Franzoni said he was “really calm” throughout the race – hoping not to get too lackadaisical and lose concentration. He thanked ArmsUp engineer John Walko, who said that thanks to a great setup off the truck and an “old school” mentality has paid dividends. Franzoni has finished in the top-five every race since the first of two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course back in May, so that’s a run of 11 consecutive races.

Behind him, Parker Thompson took second place in the first Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car and gained three points on Anthony Martin, who finished third after holding off a race-long charge from a pair of his Australian countrymen, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing).

Thompson made a move on Martin for second place at Turn 6 on Lap 11, which narrowed a 24-point gap at the time to 18, but he’ll still need a bit of help to overcome the deficit on Sunday.

Martin’s lead over Thompson is 18 points (369-351) headed to tomorrow’s season finale. Franzoni, who had a remote mathematical chance only at winning the title, was eliminated, but has clinched third in the championship behind the Cape twins.

Yufeng Luo finished sixth ahead of series debutante Phillippe Denes, the young American who staged an impressive drive for Team Pelfrey to come from 15th to seventh. Full-season rookie Robert Megennis was eighth in another Pelfrey entry with Lucas Kohl and Dakota Dickerson completing the top-10.

An off for Nikita Lastochkin at Turn 6 derailed a potential top-10 for him, while the other series debutantes Kaylen Frederick (13th) and Michael Scott (17th) – failed to figure in the day. Scott incurred a rare mechanical issue for John Cummiskey Racing.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

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)