Conor Daly, Sarah Fisher take COVID-19 vaccination staff for a ride around IMS

Daly Fisher COVID-19
IMS Photo

Conor Daly and Sarah Fisher gave health workers assisting with COVID-19 vaccines the ride of their lives in advance of a mass vaccination that will take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of April.

The Indiana University (IU) Health System and IMS will team up in the month of April to vaccinate up to 100,000 persons, which is about 40 percent of the track’s seating capacity.

Roger Penske has stated a goal of having a full capacity of 250,000 fans in the stands, and in a good-faith showing to aim for a large crowd, he opened up the track to be a vaccination site.

Anyone 16 years or older currently is eligible for the vaccine in Indiana. They will pre-register for their vaccinations, drive through Gate 2 at the speedway (where their registrations will be confirmed) and then drive into the track through the garages along pit road.

“I know it seems like a lot, but it’s still a small number for the State of Indiana,” said Mary Kay Foster, IU Health mass vaccination clinic manager. “But it’s 100,000 people closer to getting to that herd effect that we keep talking about.”

Local officials share Penske’s optimism that the track can accommodate the quarter-million crowd. More than 170,000 tickets have already been sold for the May 30 event.

But before health workers got down to work, they were treated to rides around the track. To show their appreciation, Indy 500 veteran Sarah Fisher and the current driver of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar, Conor Daly gave health workers rides around the track in Chevrolet Tahoes.

Daly Fisher COVID-19
Conor Daly and Sarah Fisher treated IU Health workers to some hot laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of April’s mass vaccination event. IMS Photo.

“To help out our friends who are helping us; who are on the front line in the fight against COVID is fantastic,” Daly said. “There are so many people working many, many hours trying to help Americans live their lives and get back into action as soon as possible, so we’re really thankful to them. If we can take them for a ride here at the race track, which is our home, our love – that’s fantastic.”

Daly crashed just shy of the halfway point of last year’s race, which was held without fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He finished 29th after starting 18th. Daly’s best result in the Indy 500 came in 2019 when he finished 10th.

“Any day that I get to come to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and take laps is always fun,” said Fisher. “This is hallowed ground – to have the honor to drive here. And then to take passengers like some of our frontline workers at IU is just tremendous.”

Fisher has competed in nine Indy 500s with a best finish of 17th in 2009.

“I’m very excited about the month of May here at IMS,” Daly said. “I can’t wait to get back on track . It seems that our world is heading in the right direction again, which is very exciting. I can’t wait to get back out here, see some people and drive some race cars really fast.”

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)