Turkey Night to Leffler.
By Robert Mayson Irwindale, CA…….Jason Leffler, of Long Beach, CA, won the 65th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix for USAC Midgets Thursday night at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. Leffler, who won the first Turkey Night race held at Irwindale back in 1999, started on the pole for the 100-lap event and took the lead from Dave Steele, of Tampa, FL, on lap 53. "I called around looking for a ride and everyone told me that I wasnt good enough to drive their midget, so I had to build my own," Leffler joked. "It's great for me to be able to come here tonight and win after putting a last-minute deal like this together. Being from Long Beach, I used to go to Ascot Park (Gardena, CA) when I was a kid and this was the biggest race that I went to every year. With the Agajanian name here, it's real special to have my name put on this trophy."
In addition to Leffler's victory in Todd Braun's Team ASE #32L K-K, two champions were also crowned. Josh Wise of Riverside, CA, won the 2005 USAC National Midget Championship, while Jerome Rodela of El Monte, CA, took home the Western Midget title. Rodela entered the evening seven points behind Robby Flock, of Murietta, CA.
Despite having to scratch his primary ride after motor problems in time trials, Rodela was able to drive his VanDyne Engineering #25X Beast from the 23rd starting position to a fifth place finish, earning him the Western States crown by 18 points over Flock, who finished 15th. "It's a good thing that I brought my other car. I had it, so I figured I might as well bring it and it really paid off," Rodela said after winning his first Western States Midget Championship. "This is just awesome, and I'm at a loss for words."
Tracy Hines, of New Castle, IN, shared the front row with Leffler, only to watch Steele move into the lead from the inside of the second row exiting turn two. Steele dominated the first half of the race, but began to slow significantly before retiring with mechanical problems on lap 55.
"We ran 40 laps without a caution and I could see he was getting tight," said Leffler. "It's a long race so I settled in behind him and waited. I was worried at the beginning of the race because he had a really good car," said Leffler, who had problems of his own. "My left front was hitting the ground so hard it was shooting me up the track. It was a problem at the end, especially getting into the corners under braking, but my Esslinger motor was running so good that I just made sure that I didn't over-charge the entry, and that I got it turned in the center so I could shoot off the corners.
Aaron Fike, of Galesburg, IL, started seventh and drove the RFMS Racing/Liberty Village #32 Beast to a second place finish ahead of the Nine Racing/ASE #9 Beast driven by J.J. Yeley, of Phoenix, AZ. Teddy Beach, of Donnelsville, OH, finished fourth. The highest finishing rookie of the race was Kevin Swindell, of Bartlett, TN, who finished 11th in the Tony Stewart/Mopar #20S Beast. "We kept plugging away trying to get the car better and me more comfortable. I think we would have been better if would have had more laps, but we got as far as we could go in 100-laps and I'm pretty happy with that," said Swindell, after making his second career start in a midget.
After 35-years of racing, Orange, California's Wally Pankratz ran the final race of his "enough is enough" tour. Pankratz, whose best career Turkey Night Grand Prix finish was a third a Saugus (CA) Speedway in 1991, ended his distinguished career with a 20th place finish. In addition to all the normal festivities, this year's race also celebrated 50 years that the Agajanian family has promoted the "Turkey Night Grand Prix" for midgets.
USAC NATIONAL/WESTERN MIDGET CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: November 24, 2005 - Irwindale, California - Irwindale Speedway - 65th "Turkey Night Grand Prix" QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Jason Leffler, 32L, Braun-17.160; 2. Tracy Hines, 11, Wilke-Pak-17.210; 3. Dave Steele, 2, Nicholas-17.230; 4. Bryan Clauson, 67, Kunz-17.241; 5. Josh Wise, 20, Stewart-17.307; 6. Billy Wease, 80, Western Speed-17.327; 7. Aaron Fike, 32, RFMS-17.334; 8. J.J. Yeley, 9, Nine Racing-17.407; 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 11x, Wilke-Pak-17.409; 10. Bobby East, 4, Klatt-17.412; 11. Tom Hessert III, 5, Hessert-17.423; 12. Jay Drake, 19, Lewis-17.449; 13. Tony Hunt, 4x, Rosen-17.449; 14. Ron Gregory, 22, Irvin-17.457; 15. Kyle Nicholas, 2x, Nicholas-17.503; 16. Ryan Kaplan, 21, Kaplan-17.526; 17. Brian Olson, 71b, Olson-17.533; 18. Scott Pierovich, 35, Pierovich-17.539; 19. Darren Hagen, 71, Kunz-17.541; 20. Michael Lewis, 40, Western Speed-17.548; 21. Bobby Santos III, 60, Western Speed-17.559; 22. Cole Carter, 7, Carter-17.561; 23. Jerome Rodela, 25, Rodela-17.568; 24. Garrett Hansen, 70, Hansen-17.577; 25. Kevin Swindell, 20s, Stewart-17.582; 26. Steve Paden, 01, Farrier-17.614; 27. Robby Flock, 79, Sala-17.622; 28. Teddy Beach, 125, Beach-17.628; 29. Brad Kuhn, 74, James-17.636; 30. Rick Moss, 50, Beal-17.652; 31. Brad Loyet, 05, Loyet-17.670; 32. Bradley Galedrige, 29, Galedrige-17.678; 33. Thomas Meseraull, 69, Ferrari-17.711; 34. Matt Mitchell, 37, Mitchell-17.734; 35. Damion Gardner, 71c, Pedregon-17.741; 36. Ken Ferris, 28, Ferris-17.753; 37. Wally Pankratz, 8, Pankratz-17.764; 38. Levi Jones, 38, Crossno-17.766; 39. Dave Darland, 10, Walker-17.782; 40. Brad Curtis, 12x, Curtis-17.810; 41. Garratt Boyden, 42, Boyden-17.866; 42. Michael Hubert III, 56, Hubert-17.885; 43. John Sarale, 32x, Sarale-17.947; 44. Shannon McQueen, 7x, McQueen-17.955; 45. Dallen McKenney, 88, McKenney17.965; 46. Brian Gard, 57, Borghesani-17.986; 47. Johnny Rodriguez, 25x, Rodela-17.990; 48. Tyler Brown, 34, Brown-18.008; 49. Ben Petter, 11D, DeBeaumont-18.033; 50. Spence Gatrell, 81, Gatrell-18.035; 51. Scott Walker, 34x, Walker-18.091; 52. Greg Dennett, 47, 3D Racing-18.126; 53. Dalles Melby, 09, Melby-18.145; 54. Ryan Pace, 44, Pace-18.308; 55. Bobby Dalton, 36, Martin-18.375; 56. Casey Shuman, 55, Everhart-18.384; 57. Jimmy Miller, 48, Miller-18.472; 58. Brea Lopez, 25L, Press-18.495; 59. Randi Pankratz, 5x, Strimling-22.373; 60. Matt Stone, 10x, Stone/Fleming-NT; 61. Kyle Nicholas, 02, Nicholas-NT.
FIRST LAST CHANCE RACE: (12 laps) 1. Hagen, 2. Nicholas, 3. Kuhn, 4. W.Pankratz, 5. Rodela (#25x Rodela), 6. Loyet, 7. Olson, 8. Swindell, 9. Boyden, 10. Darland, 11. Flock, 12. Meseraull, 13. Gardner, 14. Walker, 15. McKenney, 16. Petter, 17. Melby, 18. Miller, 19. Dalton, 20. Santos. 3:28.44
SECOND LAST CHANCE RACE: (12 laps) 1. Carter, 2. Beach, 3. Lewis, 4. Kaplan, 5. Pierovich, 6. Hansen, 7. Mitchell, 8. Moss, 9. Ferris, 10. Paden, 11. Galedrige, 12. McQueen, 13. Jones, 14. Hubert, 15. Gard, 16. Gatrell, 17. Dennett, 18. Lopez, 19. Curtis, 20. Brown, 21. Pace, 22. Shuman. 3:30.34
FEATURE: (100 laps) 1. Jason Leffler, 2. Aaron Fike, 3. J.J. Yeley, 4. Teddy Beach, 5. Jerome Rodela (#25x), 6. Tracy Hines, 7. Jay Drake, 8. Cole Carter, 9. Michael Lewis, 10. Billy Wease, 11. Kevin Swindell, 12. Bryan Clauson, 13. Jerry Coons Jr., 14. Tom Hessert III, 15. Robby Flock, 16. Scott Pierovich, 17. Josh Wise, 18. Rick Moss, 19. Wally Pankratz, 20. Tony Hunt, 21. Matt Mitchell, 22. Kyle Nicholas, 23. Troy Brown, 24. Garrett Hansen, 25. Ron Gregory, 26. Ryan Kaplan, 27. Dave Steele, 28. Brad Kuhn, 29. Brian Olson, 30. Bobby East, 31. Brad Loyet, 32. Darren Hagen. 37:48.51 --------------------
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-52 Steele, Laps 53-100 Leffler.
FINAL NATIONAL MIDGET CAR POINTS: 1-Wise-1,021; 2-Coons-849; 3-Kuhn-700; 4-Gregory-653; 5-Beach-642; 6-Hessert-637; 7-Carter-609; 8-Hagen-576; 9-Drake-491; 10-East-488.
FINAL WESTERN MIDGET CAR POINTS: 1-Rodela-808; 2-Flock-790; 3-Brown-663; 4-Kaplan-569; 5-Pierovich-496; 6-Hansen-472; 7-Graves-469; 8-Galedrige-432; 9-McKenney-428; 10-McQueen-387.