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Photo: Albert Wong, PARADE LAP for the 80th running of the Thanksgiving Midget GP at the fifth-mile, clay Ventura Raceway on Saturday, November 27:The first two rows occupy the parade lap front row as they salute the sold-out grandstand. Front row starter Kaylee Bryson (orange KKM No. 71) is on pole. Outside row one starter Taylor Reimer (black KKM No.25k) is outside next to the wall. Row two starters occupy the two middle spots. Third starter Buddy Kofoid (in KKM Mobil 1 No. 67) is next to Bryson with fourth starter Mitchel Moles (Matt Wood No. 07w) next to Reimer. Pictured behind them in the four-wide salute are the front of No. 57 Maria Cofer, No. 1k Kyle Larson, and No. 08 Cannon McIntosh.RESULTS: Kofoid finished second in the GP and won the 2021 USAC National Midget driving championship. Moles finished third and won the Don Basile Rookie of the Race honor and cash bonus. Larson placed fourth. Bryson finished fifth and was the highest finishing TNGP female driver in history. Reimer finished eighth on the lead lap.
LOS ANGELES – Friday November 26 practice for the 80th running of the Thanksgiving Midget Grand Prix had 44 of the 50 entered midgets on track at the fifth-mile Ventura Raceway. USAC 360 ci sprint cars hot lapped and ran qualifying races for Saturday. Six groups of eight midgets ran hot laps starting at 6:15 pm. Fastest midget time--11.827--by 18-year old Cannon McIntosh, the 2019 Turkey Night GP runner-up to Kyle Larson and Basile Rookie of the Race.
Larson and his TNGP teammate Chase Elliott, the last two NASCAR Cup driving champions, were not present Friday. Larson's crew chief Paul Silva had Petry Racing's Kevin Thomas, Jr. hot-lap Larson's # 1k. Shane Golobic, from Matt Wood Racing, hot-lapped Elliott's # 9. Thomas was 29th fastest at 12.427 and Golobic was 22nd best with a lap of 12.224.
The # 71e Keith Kunz midget ran a ninth best lap of 12.042 but the driver was not midget rookie Mariah Ede, 15. She flipped the car November 20 in the semi-main at Placerville and was hospitalized overnight. She returned home to Fresno and did not make the trip to Ventura according to the team. Kunz had one of three Matt Wood team drivers—Mitchel Moles—hot-lap the # 71e in three sessions. The soon to be 2021 GP third place finisher and Basile R of the R turned the 12.042. His best lap Friday in his own # 07w was 11.954.
Moles became the seventh TNGP R of the R to finish in a top three position in the TNGP. Moles celebrated his 22nd birthday on November 30, so the $500 cash earned as R of the R gave him an early birthday present. The Southern Pacific Farms sponsor on the hood of his Wood # 07w Spike/Stanton SR-11x is a 1,000 acre raisin farm owned by his father in Raisin City, Calif., SW of Fresno (“the raisin capital of the world”). His fourth fastest qualifying time and run from P.4 to third by passing three-time TNGP winner Kyle Larson on lap 85 of the 98 lap race could give him the nickname “raisin city rocket”.
Personable Moles, who is 6' 2”, has raced sprint cars primarily at central California dirt tracks in Hanford, Merced and Tulare. He won a 30-lap USAC Western Midget feature in # 07w on April 10 at Hanford. He won a 600cc outlaw mini sprint feature in the last Tulsa. Okla. Shootout, a week before the Tulsa Chili Bowl midget classic at the same indoor track. After his impressive TNGP showing, Moles picked up a ride with Dave Mac Motorsports in a # 08m team midget for the December 18 Jason Leffler Memorial indoor dirt track race at DuQuoin Illinois, where he finished fifth in a 20-car, 50-lap race. Moles is entered in the 2022 Tulsa Chili Bowl in the Wood # 07w.
The TNGP printed program listed the top ten drivers in USAC National and Western 2021 points and top ten drivers in USAC 360 sprint car final 2021 points—both USAC and VRA. Nine of ten USAC National Midget drivers raced (Daison Pursley was injured in a November flip in the Kunz # 71k at Arizona Speedway and was absent). NorCal's Tanner Carrick drove the #71k at Ventura and finished 20th in the 98-lap main. Seven of ten USAC Western Series drivers raced. Blake Bower, the 15-year old champion and rookie of the year, did not compete. Eight of the ten USAC Western 360 sprint drivers raced and six of the top ten VRA point drivers raced.
FLIPS:There were three midget flips during the 2021 TNGP. Jason McDougal flipped during practice. Dylan Ito, nephew of 1980s USAC Western Midget feature winner George Ito, flipped near turn one in the semi-main after contact. Kunz Motorsports driver Brenham Crouch flipped in the main event after contact in turn three by Thomas Meseraull. He was towed to the pit work area and his team replaced a broken front axle in about two minutes under the red flag. He returned to the race and finished 25th.
Seven of the past 22 Basile Rookie of the Race winners competed in the 80th TNGP. The 2021 TNGP had 27 rookies listed in the program. Two additional write-in rookies were TNGP rookies Sage Bordenave (# 35x), from French Camp, Calif., and # 35 driver Tyler Dolacki, son of retired USAC midget feature winner Robert Dolacki.
There were three 2021 TNGP feature leaders: Kaylee Bryson led 17 laps from the pole. Logan Seavey led laps 18-25, 28-32, and 42-98. Buddy Kofoid led laps 26-27 and 33-41. Seavey led 70 laps and there was close racing with passing to keep fans interested. FloRacing televised TNGP racing live and its camera-equipped drone flying low above the front straight at grandstand fans eye level was a new experience for many people.
Oldest 2021 TNGP midget driver was Ron Hazelton, 65, and the youngest pair were Jade Avedisian, 15 years two months, and Placerville November 18 feature winner Ryan Timms, 15 and 3 months. ... High and low Ventura temperatures (per LA Times) from November 24 through November 27 were: 69 and 51 Wednesday, 76 and 63 Thanksgiving, 70 and 56 Friday, and 70 and 54 Saturday (race day). That is ideal weather for a summertime race, much less a late November event.
Teams with multiple midgets were: Keith Kunz--six, three each by Reinbold-Underwood, Josh Ford, Matt Wood and Chad Boat; two each by Tom Malloy, Rudeen Racing, RMS, Dean Alexander, NMF Racing, Kyle Larson, and Petry Motorsports. Twelve car numbers had multiple midgets using the same number with a letter added for scoring purposes. Popular car numbers were: 1, 5, 8, 15, 19, 25, 26, 35, 37, 71, 73 and 89.
Keith Kunz midgets are hauled to speedways aboard four Freightliner 18-wheelers. A smaller truck carries tires and spare parts. They departed from the Merced right after the Wednesday race and traveled five hours via highways 99, I-5, 126 and 101 to the Ventura pit gate by 5 am. The KKM team had their usual entire row of pits next to the pit gate. KKM trailers carry four midgets on the top deck and a midget and pushers below. KKM also carries spare midgets on board.
KKM midgets have chassis numbers affixed to the left side of the cockpit roll cage. This year chassis numbers from oldest to newest were: DM-66 - Bryson's # 71; DM-69 - Carrick's # 71k; DM-72 - Reiner's # 25k; DM-85 - Crouch's # 97; DM-86 - Kofoid's # 67, and DM-89 - Wiedeman's # 01. The # 71e midget did not have a chassis number because it was the KKM “experimental" car and did not have a driver assigned at Ventura.