2021 USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway

Turkey Night Grand Prix Tradition Returns Saturday

Turkey Night Grand Prix Tradition Returns Saturday

USAC's Turkey Night Grand Prix returns to Ventura Raceway on Saturday after a one-year hiatus.

Nov 26, 2021 by FloRacing Staff
Turkey Night Grand Prix Tradition Returns Saturday

Ventura, California -- Following a year’s absence from the ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix, USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing’s greatest tradition returns in 2021 for its 80th edition with a brand-new date of Saturday night, November 27, at southern California’s Ventura Raceway.

Star power is in abundance at this year’s Turkey Night Grand Prix with recently crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson set to pilot the Kyle Larson Racing No. 1K in the event as he attempts to defend his victory in the race from 2019.  Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif. has previously won the race in 2012, 2016 and 2019.  His three Turkey Night Midget wins are tied for second all-time, only behind Ron Shuman’s eight.

Traditionally, the Turkey Night Grand Prix has been held on Thanksgiving night, but after several years of pondering the subject, and with the 2020 cancellation of the event due to COVID-19, promoters J.C. Agajanian Jr., Cary Agajanian and Ventura Raceway’s Jim Naylor decided the time was right to make the move to a new Saturday night date on the beach.

“For the last 20 years, we’ve discussed moving the event,” J.C. Jr. acknowledged.  “Things change, families change, and we wanted to continue the tradition of it being held on Thursday night.  But, once the virus came through, we discussed it with Jim Naylor and decided, if we were going to move the event, this would be the year to do it.  All the signs pointed to doing it this year and I believe it will bring more local talent to the race and put more people in the grandstands.”

The Agajanian family is legendary in the racing world and, particularly with the promotion of USAC racing events throughout much of the past century.  The family, spearheaded by family patriarch J.C. Agajanian Sr., has annually promoted the event since 1955, a tradition which continued with his sons J.C. Jr. and Cary following their father’s death in May of 1984.

Naylor, meanwhile, has been the sole promoter of Ventura Raceway ever since he personally financed the construction of the fairground facility in 1978.  No group of individuals has more of a fondness for the Turkey Night Grand Prix, or as much of a stake in the game, as these three individuals, and it didn’t go without extensive conversation on whether to stand pat or take action by making Saturday the new Turkey Night race day.

“Cary, Jim and I are traditionalists,” J.C. Jr. acknowledges.  “We come from racing families, we’ve been in racing all our lives and we do things the way they’re supposed to be done, in our opinion.  Fans have traditions at Turkey Night, eating turkey from their trailers and motorhomes in the parking lot of the racetrack, and it’s a lot of fun.  But there’s always been the thought that maybe it might be a good idea to move it to the weekend.”

The Agajanian family is used to making comebacks at the Turkey Night Grand Prix.  Turkey Night began in 1934, but after the 1950 race, had completely vanished from the schedule.  It was then, five years later, that J.C. Agajanian stepped in to revive and revitalize the event in 1955, where it’s flourished in the 66 years since.

“My dad realized the importance of Turkey Night,” Agajanian stated.  “In 1955, he sent his PR people out to bring life back into the race at Ascot.  From 1955 on have been the Aggie years at the Turkey Night Grand Prix.  We wouldn’t have had the race without him.”

While being midget racing’s most tenured event, the Turkey Night Grand Prix has seen a variety of venues over the years, both dirt and pavement, at Gilmore Stadium (1934–1950), Gardena Stadium (1955–1959), Ascot Park (1960–1974, 1976–1990), Speedway 605 (1975), Saugus Speedway (1991), Bakersfield Speedway (1992–1995, 1998), Perris Auto Speedway (1996, 2012–2015), Ventura Raceway (1997, 2016–2019, 2021–present) and Irwindale Speedway (1999–2011).

The constants with the Turkey Night Grand Prix since the mid-1950s have been midget racing in California promoted by the Agajanian family.  But, until 1968, the race was 150 laps in length.  From 1969-2006, the distance was changed to 100 where it remained until a chance meeting with a fan during the night of the 2006 race that, in turn, created a new tradition that stands to this day.

“A fan stopped by and asked me, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to make this 100-lapper into a 98-lapper in honor of your dad?’ J.C. Jr. remembered.  “I went, ‘whoa, that’s a great idea.’  The only 98-lap race in the country, and 98 because that’s been the number of our racecars all our lives.  USAC said it was fine with them and the drivers said, I don’t care how long Turkey Night is, as long as I’m leading the last lap.”

No family has promoted more USAC National Midget events, or more USAC National events period, than the Agajanian family.  J.C. Sr., alone, promoted 250 in his lifetime, 204 of which were Midget races.  This year’s 80th edition once again honors J.C. who brought Turkey Night back to life all those years ago.

“Turkey Night was so important to the industry, and not just to the west coast,” Agajanian recalled.  “The housing industry, the realtors and the automobile people realized that first of all, they needed more people to move out to California and, secondly, all the midget tracks back east are snowed-in or done during this time of year.  They wanted to show off the fact that we’re still running midgets this late in the year.  That’s how the race came to be.”

A feather in the cap at the end of a long season still conjures up the emotions and the excitement for USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing’s finest, and come Saturday night, November 27, 2021, ninety-eight laps, a $10,000 check, a kiss of the Aggie hat trophy and racing immortality is all that matters at Ventura Raceway.

Automotive Racing Products, the title sponsor of the 80th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix, has added $15,000 to the event purse from top-to-bottom when the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship arrives at southern California’s Ventura Raceway for the prestigious event on Saturday night, November 27.

USAC West Coast Sprint Car heat races, qualifiers and dash will take place on Friday, November 26 with the sprint car semi-feature and feature events taking place on Saturday, November 27.

All tickets that are not reserved are $35. Reserved seats are $45 for ages 13 and older and $20 for ages 12 and under.

Race tickets are available now at www.venturaraceway.net.