The ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix annually presents the Don Basile Rookie of the Race Award, honoring the top performance by a first-time feature starter in the 98-lap classic each year.
This year’s crop of 30 Turkey Night Rookies arrive to stake their claim and make their initial mark on the great race featuring USAC’s NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship, which will take place for the 81st time this Saturday night, November 26, at California’s Ventura Raceway.
No Rookie has won the race since Warren Mockler’s last lap heroics in 1986. Mitchel Moles topped all others making their Turkey Night debuts in the 2021 race, finishing third to round out the podium.
Nearly half of this year’s 61-car field is among the abundance of Rookie of the Race contenders. Among this year’s group are 2022 first-time USAC National Midget winner Jacob Denney (Galloway, Ohio) as well as 2021 Gateway Dirt in December winner Jonathan Beason (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and 2021 USAC East Coast Sprint Car champ Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.).
USAC Western States Midget winners make up a substantial portion of the Rookie class, including Jake Andreotti (Castro Valley, Calif.), Brody Fuson (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Cade Lewis (Bakersfield, Calif.).
Reigning USAC West Coast Sprint Car Turkey Night winner A.J. Bender (San Diego, Calif.) is part of the crew as is USAC West Coast Sprint Car winner Daniel Whitley (Ferndale, Calif.) and BC39 Stoops Pursuit victor Dominic Gorden (Clovis, Calif.).
New Zealand’s Travis Buckley (Auckland, N.Z.) is the lone international representative in the event. He’s joined in the lineup by fellow Turkey Night first-time starting hopefuls, Californians Terry Nichols (Delano, Calif.), Jake Hodges (Camarillo, Calif.), Caden Sarale (Stockton, Calif.), Joey Bishop (Camarillo, Calif.) and Steve Hix (Ventura, Calif.).
Badger Midget racing veteran Bryon Walters (Beaver Dam, Wis.) will be making his first foray to Turkey Night. Brothers Blaze Bennett (Parker, Colo.) and Lance Bennett (Aurora, Colo.) come to the event from the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association.
Josh Hodge (Brownsburg, Ind.) and Scott Orr (Columbia City, Ind.) are coming out from Indiana while Austin Barnhill (Wilmington, N.C.) goes coast-to-coast. Zach Telford (Middleton, Idaho) and Teddy Bivert (Payette, Idaho) have the Idaho connection going as they make the long haul from the north.
Bordering Arizona brings a handful of newcomers, including Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.), Nathan Byrd (Goodyear, Ariz.) and Jim Vanzant (Prescott, Ariz.) along with brother and sister, Logan and Tuesday Calderwood (Goodyear, Ariz.).
The award, named in memory of track owner, promoter and 1999 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Don Basile, made its debut in 1998 with Kasey Kahne the first recipient.
Over the years, the Don Basile Rookie of the Race honors at Turkey Night have been awarded to some of the most talented young racers in America. A glance at the list reveals some of the top names from the sport over the past two decades, including two race winners and seven who’ll be in this year’s field.
Tanner Thorson captured the Don Basile Rookie of the Race award in 2013 and eventually won the race in 2015. Furthermore, there’s a talented bunch of past Rookies who’ll all be in the hunt for a first Turkey Night win this Saturday night, including, Carson Macedo (2016), Jason McDougal (2018), Cannon McIntosh (2019) and Moles (2021).
Automotive Racing Products, the title sponsor of the 81st running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix, paying $10,000-to-win for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship event at Ventura on Saturday night, November 26.
Serving as grand marshals for the event are National Midget Hall of Famer Wally Pankratz and Dick Woodland.
Midget practice, plus USAC West Coast Sprint Car heat races, qualifiers and dash will take place on Friday, November 25 with the sprint car semi-feature and feature events, and the 98-lap USAC Midget season finale taking place on Saturday, November 26.
On Friday and Saturday, the pits open at 11am Pacific with the drivers meeting at 2:45pm, the grandstands opening at 3pm and cars on track at 3:15pm.
Friday’s tickets are $22 for adult general admission, $18 for Senior/Military/Students and free for children under 12. Pit passes are $45 apiece for members and $50 for non-members.
On Saturday, all tickets that are not reserved are $35. Reserved seats are $45 for ages 13 and older and $25 for ages 12 and under. Pit passes are $45 for members and $50 for non-members.
Race tickets are available now at www.venturaraceway.net.