98 LAPS "TURKEY NIGHT" IN HONOR OF J.C. AGAJANIAN This year's "Turkey Night Grand Prix" USAC National/Western Midget race will be 98-laps, in honor of J.C. Agajanian, the patriarch of the famed California family which has ...
98 LAPS "TURKEY NIGHT" IN HONOR OF J.C. AGAJANIAN
This year's "Turkey Night Grand Prix" USAC National/Western Midget race will be 98-laps, in honor of J.C. Agajanian, the patriarch of the famed California family which has organized more United States Auto Club races than anyone else in the 52-year history of the club. The famed #98 is synonymous with Mr. Agajanian, having adorned his Indianapolis 500 winning entries in 1952 and 1963 driven by Troy Ruttman and Parnelli Jones. The announcement of the race distance was made today by race organizer J.C. Agajanian Jr.
Mr. Agajanian passed away in 1984 after presenting 298 USAC events since 1956. His sons, J.C. Jr., Cary and Chris have carried on the family tradition by presenting an additional 178 races in the ensuing 23 years, giving the family a grand total of 476 USAC events.
The November 22 program at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway features three more Agajanian/USAC events, the National/Western Midgets, the Lucas Oil Western Sprint Cars and the California Pavement/Utah Ford Focus Midgets. A 30-lap Focus and 30-lap Sprint race will precede the 98-lap Midget finale.
The Turkey Night Grand Prix is a testimonial to American short-track racing and to a racing family steeped in tradition. It began in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium in Hollywood and this year's race is the 67th. Winners have included some of the most famous drivers in American history, including Indianapolis 500 champions Bill Vukovich, Johnnie Parsons, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, and more recently current NASCAR stars Tony Stewart, Jason Leffler and Bobby East. Billy Wease won last year's race when the distance was 100 laps. The race distance has changed through the years and reached 150 laps several times.
Drivers Ron Shuman and Billy Boat hold distinctive "Turkey Night" marks, Shuman winning the race a record eight times and Boat taking three straight at three different tracks from 1995-1997. Shuman probably wishes the 1986 race had been 98 laps! He was leading when he blew a tire on the 100th and final lap at Gardena's Ascot Park, allowing Warren Mockler to pick up the win! The race has been held at Irwindale's 1/2-mile paved oval every year since 1999.
The first Agajanian USAC promotion came at Saugus Speedway in California on January 29, 1956 and was won by Shorty Templeman, who went on to claim three consecutive National Midget championships. "Turkey Night" venues have included Gilmore Stadium (1934-1950), Gardena Stadium (1955-1959), Ascot Park (1960-1974 and 1976-1990), Saugus Speedway (1991), Bakersfield Speedway (1992-1995 and 1998), Perris Auto Speedway (1996), Ventura Raceway (1997) and Irwindale Speedway (1999-present). In 1975 the race was held at 805 Speedway, which was just across the freeway from where Irwindale Speedway now sits.