WM: Ventura recap, Irwindale preview

SANTOS HOPES "98" THE MAGIC NUMBER THURSDAY AT IRWINDALE; KUHN TAKES VENTURA'S "J.W. MITCHELL" $5,000 Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. returns to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Calif. Thursday night as the defending champion for the 69th...

SANTOS HOPES "98" THE MAGIC NUMBER THURSDAY AT IRWINDALE; KUHN TAKES VENTURA'S "J.W. MITCHELL" $5,000

Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. returns to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Calif. Thursday night as the defending champion for the 69th Lucas Oil "Turkey Night Grand Prix" USAC Mopar National/Western Midget race. He hopes the magic number is "98" since he'll pilot his familiar #98 in the 98-lap race trying to become the first driver to win back-to-back "Turkey Nights" at the same track since Ron Shuman in 1992 and 1993.

Santos is the only driver to win races in USAC's three National series this season. His Midget wins came back-to-back at Newton, Iowa and Toledo, Ohio in June and July.

Thursday he'll face the best America has to offer in one of the country's most revered races. The field is expected to include National title combatants Brad Kuhn, Brad Sweet and Darren Hagen, Western Midget leader Garrett Hansen, 2009 USAC Western Sprint Champ Tanner Swanson, 2008 National Midget Champ Cole Whitt, Indy-Car veteran Davey Hamilton, NASCAR vet and former "Turkey Night" Champ Jason Leffler, USAC Triple Crown Champ and former "Turkey Night" Champ Dave Darland, former "Turkey Night" Champ Bobby East, 2009 USAC/SMRS Midget Champ Brad Loyet and 2008 National Ford Focus Champ Alex Bowman. Hamilton finished second to Santos last year.

Thursday's program, celbrating 75 years of the "Turkey Night" tradition which started in 1934, also includes the California Pavement Ford Focus and USAC Western Sprint cars, the Focuses racing on the third-mile and the Sprints cars on the half.

Brad Kuhn of Avon, Ind. led the final 18 laps to win Saturday night's 40-lap "J.W. Mitchell Classic" USAC Western Midget feature at the Ventura Raceway. The victory was worth $5,000 to Kuhn and his RW Motorsports team as he piloted the Rotondo Weirich Beast/Fontana. Seven-time Western and two-time National USAC Midget Champion Sleepy Tripp presented Kuhn's awards in victory lane.

Chad Boat finished second ahead of Ryan Kaplan, Cory Kruseman and Loyet. Hansen finished sixth to mathematically clinch the 2009 USAC Western Midget championship going into Thursday's Irwindale event. Kuhn will try to cap a USAC Mopar National Midget Championship at Irwindale. He leads Sweet by 40 points and Hagen by 53 with 66 points available Thursday.

Cory Kruseman led the first 10 laps of Saturday's race. Matt Streeter led the next three and Bryan Clauson led for nine before Kuhn went to the front.

Clauson could also be one to watch Thursday, He's already won nine USAC races this year, including the prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.

-credit: usac

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Series USAC
Drivers Jason Leffler , Davey Hamilton , Brad Kuhn , Dave Darland , Cory Kruseman , Bobby East , Bobby Santos III , Bryan Clauson , Ryan Kaplan , Darren Hagen , Cole Whitt , Alex Bowman , Brad Sweet , Chad Boat , Brad Loyet , Tanner Swanson , Garrett Hansen , Matt Streeter