Becomes 50th winner of historic race.
Starting on the outside of the front row, Christopher Bell of Norman, Oklahoma won the 74th Turkey Night Grand Prix. By winning the 98-lap main event at Perris Auto Speedway, Bell become the 50th winner of the “Thanksgiving Day Classic.” Darren Hagen, Kyle Larson, Zach Daum, and Rico Abreu followed the young driver to the Honda USAC National and Western Midget checkered flags.
Fast qualifier Tanner Thorson dominated the opening laps and led the first twenty-one circuits before Bell edged his way to the top spot. Thorson reclaimed the lead for the next six laps as track conditions began to change. Bell secured the lead for good on lap twenty-nine and managed to shake free from his challengers by slicing his way through the slower traffic.
Racing the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian #71 Toyota TRD Bullet, Christopher Bell claimed his fourth career USAC Western Midget feature, good for 45th overall. Last year’s USAC National Midget Champion qualified second out of the thirty-five racers in attendance and ended the campaign ranked sixth in the Western standings. Bell closed out the season with three main event wins, one heat race victory, six top-10 finishes, and 127 feature laps led.
Fresh from his Western World victory, Irvine, California’s “The Hawk” Darren Hagen ran second in the Turkey Night Grand Prix. Driving the 5ive-Six Inc. #56 Great Clips / Fatheadz Eyewear XXX, Hagen was fourth fast in time trials and was one of several racers that were penalized for reporting late to staging. Darren made his way forward and ended his season tied for fifteenth in the Western point chase. In limited starts, Hagen had one VanLare Steering Repair Fast Time Award, one heat race victory, three top-10 finishes, and 25 feature laps led to his credit.
Kyle Larson of Elk Grove charged from thirteenth to finish third at Perris Auto Speedway. Piloting the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian #71K Cartwheel / Target TRD Bullet, the NASCAR competitor was thirteenth in time trials. Making his return to midget racing since the Chili Bowl in January, the 2012 Turkey Night winner executed several turn three “slide jobs” to race to the front.
Starting seventh in the feature, Pocahontas, Illinois’ “The Dominator” Zach Daum took fourth in the 98-lap main event. Racing the family owned #5D Daum Corp. Insurance / Toyota Eagle, Daum qualified seventh overall and placed eighteenth in the Western standings. In limited appearances, Zach had three top-10 finishes and 11 feature laps led on the year.
Fourth good enough
By scoring fourth in the “Thanksgiving classic,” Rico Abreu of Rutherford, California earned the USAC National Midget Series Championship. Driving the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian #67 Toyota TRD / Curb Records Bullet, Abreu was sixth fast in time trials. Rico earned eleventh in the Western point chase on the strength of one main event win, three VanLare Steering Repair Fast Time Awards, one heat race victory, five top-10 finishes, and three feature laps led.
Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson was the VanLare Steering Repair Fast Time Qualifier. Piloting the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian #67 Toyota TRD / Curb Records Bullet, Thorson ran strong during the early stages and placed sixth at the checkered flags. The young driver closed out 2014 seated eighth in Western standings with two heat race victories, six top-10 finishes, and 44 feature laps led.
In his first appearance at Perris Auto Speedway, Isaac Chapple of Willow Branch, Indiana was the “Don Basile Rookie of the Race.” In addition, the driver of the #52 CFH Enterprises / Ultimate Offroad Spike earned “Hard Charger / Best Passing Job” honors with a thirteenth place finish after starting twenty-eighth.
After the top-twenty in time trials were locked into the feature, Stockton, California’s Johnathon Henry won the 12-lap Extreme Mufflers Qualifying Race. Racing Chad Nichols’ #17 Finishline Construction / Home Buyers Connection Spike, Henry qualified twenty-third and charged to ninth in the main event after starting twenty-first. The versatile driver ended 2014 raked seventeenth in Western points with two heat race victories and three top-10 finishes.