MRTI: Pelfrey retains Megennis, Fischer for second seasons

Megennis (left) and Fischer (right). Photos: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Team Pelfrey has confirmed its first two drivers for its Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires programs in 2017, with Robert Megennis (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) and TJ Fischer (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) set for their second seasons in each of the respective championships. The team has moved its operations for both to Indianapolis over the winter.

Megennis was perhaps the revelation of the 2016 USF2000 campaign, as the series’ top rookie at just age 16. He has the potential to win races and contend for a title this year, as the USF2000 championship shifts to the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis.

“I am delighted to be returning to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with Team Pelfrey. The revitalized team, relocated to Indianapolis, will be hard to beat,” said Megennis, who will drive the No. 80 Palo Alto Networks entry. “After the awesome rookie season we had in 2016, I’m super excited to see what we can do in our second year in the series and my third year in yellow!”

Fischer moved up midseason from USF2000 into Pro Mazda. The Californian was consistent, frequently finishing between fifth and sixth, and has potential to become a podium regular this year.

“It’s clear, they have won the past two Pro Mazda titles, and the demeanor within the team shows why they’ve been so successful. Last year, I got a taste of what racing in the Pro Mazda Championship was like and now I am able to learn from the 2016 season and apply it to a full proper year,” said Fischer, who during the year will work to increase awareness on his Project O2 initiative. Fischer created the O2 campaign, which is designed to inform, inspire, and innovate a new path to asthma awareness.

These two signings should kick off a flurry of Mazda Road to Indy announcements for Pro Mazda and USF2000 over the next month or so, before the official preseason test takes place in Homestead, Fla. at the end of February.

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)