Tyler Courtney Eyes Walk Off Moment At Turkey Night

There aren’t too many better ways for a champion to celebrate a title than in victory lane after winning the season finale.  It’s akin to a walk-off homer to win the World Series ala Bill Mazeroski or Joe Carter.  Nothing could be finer.

Watch 2019 USAC Turkey Night at Ventura Raceway Live!

Nov. 28 | 6:15 PM ET

Tyler Courtney has already wrapped up the 2019 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget title.  A cherry on top, in more ways than one, would be a win in this Thursday night’s Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway.

Firstly, he’d win the Turkey Night Grand Prix, the premier midget event on the west coast and the longest, most tradition-race in the entire sport which dates to the infancy of midget racing in 1934.

Secondly, it would put the 18-time USAC National feature winner in 2019 into yet another exclusive category of drivers who’ve won the season finale and the title in the same season.

To date, it’s occurred five times over the course of the past six-plus decades with Shorty Templeman as the first individual to accomplish the feat in 1957, walking out of Bonelli Stadium in Saugus, Calif. with multiple pieces of hardware after winning for car owners Ashley and Kathryn Wright.  Bob Wente was the next to do so in 1963 for Bob Higman indoors at Ohio’s Cincinnati Gardens.

In most recent years, the final sendoff to the season has been Turkey Night in a variety of California locations.  Jason Leffler is the lone driver to win both the season opener (Phoenix, Ariz.), the season finale (Irwindale, Calif.) and the series championship all within the same year.  Courtney is in line to become the second to pull off the trifecta with a February win in the first race at Ocala, Fla. and a title already in his possession.  An elusive Turkey Night crown, where he finished a career best 5th last year, awaits.

Watch 2019 USAC Turkey Night at Ventura Raceway Live!

Nov. 28 | 6:15 PM ET

The two most recent drivers to pull off the racing “walk off” were Bobby East in 2004 who, like Leffler, pulled off the feat in the famed Steve Lewis No. 9 while Bryan Clauson got the job done in 2010 aboard Corey Tucker/BCI/Keith Kunz’s No. 39.  Both East and Clauson won their closers at Irwindale.

There’ve been a number of drivers who’ve started their season on the right foot and used the early season momentum to propel them to a USAC National Midget title.  Courtney, of Indianapolis, Ind., could become the second consecutive driver to win the season opening race and cruise to a championship following Logan Seavey’s run starting at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin in 2018.

Fellow drivers who’ve done it include Mel Kenyon (1968), Rich Vogler (1978) and Steve Lotshaw (1979) who all were victorious in cool January events at the unpredictable indoor concrete bullring of the Memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Ind.

Watch 2019 USAC Turkey Night at Ventura Raceway Live!

Nov. 28 | 6:15 PM ET

Leffler, of course, got the job done at Phoenix International Raceway in 1999 followed by Bryan Clauson at Dodge City Raceway Park in Kansas to kick off 2011 and Rico Abreu at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway in 2014.

Championship or otherwise, it’s been nearly two decades since a driver has won both the season opener and finale within the same year.  Tony Stewart was the most recent in 2000, winning both February’s Copper World at Phoenix and Turkey Night at Irwindale at November.

Parnelli Jones bookended the 1964 campaign with wins at Ascot Park.  Rich Vogler won indoors to open 1984 and ended it in victory lane under the sunshine of Phoenix.  Billy Boat ramped up a spectacular year in 1996 with a February Copper World triumph and wound it down with his second of three-straight Turkey Night wins at Perris, Calif.  Leffler scored both ends of the 1999 season at Phoenix and Irwindale.

USAC NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONS WHO WON SEASON FINALE

1957: Shorty Templeman

1963: Bob Wente

1999: Jason Leffler

2004: Bobby East

2010: Bryan Clauson

USAC NATIONAL MIDGET SEASON OPENER WINNERS WHO WON THE TITLE

1968: Mel Kenyon

1978: Rich Vogler

1979: Steve Lotshaw

1999: Jason Leffler

2011: Bryan Clauson

2014: Rico Abreu

2018: Logan Seavey

2019: Tyler Courtney

WON USAC NATIONAL MIDGET OPENER & FINALE IN SAME SEASON

1964: Parnelli Jones

1984: Rich Vogler

1996: Billy Boat

1999: Jason Leffler

2000: Tony Stewart

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