National Dirt
Friday, 22 November 2013


Sleepy Tripp in Thursday's "Grand Marshall" Sleepy Tripp in Thursday's "Grand Marshall" Photo by John Mahoney



An 80-year-old motorsports tradition unfolds next Thursday night at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway as the 73rd running of the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” showcases USAC’s Honda National and Western Midget series in the 2013 season finale.

In fitting tribute to the winningest USAC Midget driver of all time, Ron “Sleepy” Tripp of Costa Mesa, Calif. will serve as the event’s Grand Marshal. Twice a USAC National champion, Tripp added seven Western titles to his resume, which reflects 160 total USAC National and regional feature victories! A frequent “Turkey Night” competitior during his career, Tripp was the race runner-up in 1979 and 1987 and was third in 1984 and 1986.

Tripp is continuing to recover from a serious motorcycle accident suffered in late 2012 in which he suffered multiple injuries.

The “Turkey Night” tradition began in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles and, with the exception of the war years, has continued every year since. It has visited numerous race facilities and has re-established its home at Perris, a track which hosted the 1996 race and last year.

Phenom Kyle Larson, the 2011 race “Rookie of the Year,” returned last year to claim the victory. Thursday night, the “Don Basile Rookie of the Race” award will again honor first-year excellence.

Point leaders Christopher Bell of Norman, Okla. and Ronnie Gardner of Norco, Calif. are preparing to celebrate 2013 Honda USAC Midget championships Thursday. Bell, as a series rookie, leads the National standings, while Gardner leads the Western points.

Bell will anchor the Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian team which also includes Rico Abreu and Tanner Thorson, who joined Bell atop the podium as the team swept the prestigious August “Belleville (Kans.) Midget Nationals.” Gardner drives for SIX-EIGHT Racing, anchored by car owner Mitchell Johnson.

All of the above will obviously be concerned with the challenge from Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind., who won this year’s AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car title for the second straight year. The two-time “Turkey Night” champ is closing out one of the greatest years in USAC history, having amassed 22 feature wins. That ranks second only to J.J. Yeley’s 2003 mark of 24 in terms of single-season victories. Tripp won 20 in 1988.

Former “Turkey Night” champions Bobby East (2004), Dave Darland (2007) and Caleb Armstrong (2011) are also expected to be among top threats for the victory Thursday.

Thursday’s race is a 98-lap affair, honoring the legendary race organizer J.C. Agajanian, whose family has continued to guide and present this spectacular auto racing tradition.