Perris, California.…..Dave Darland added to his legacy and joined select company in Thursday night’s 73rd “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Perris Auto Speedway. The Lincoln, Indiana veteran avoided a late-race mishap for leader Damion Gardner to win the 98-lap classic and join Mel Kenyon and Stan Fox as the only drivers to win the Thanksgiving race on both dirt and pavement.
Darland took the lead a lap after halfway but appeared to be headed for a runner-up finish until Gardner lost a left-rear wheel on lap 95. He maneuvered the final four circuits unchallenged and won by .823-seconds in the Keith Ford-owned King Racing Products – A&A Precision Machine #73 Ellis/Fontana.
“It was definitely a roller-coaster race. Gardner was definitely strong, and it looked like he had it won. We were lucky to get past him when he broke and it was the break we needed. It’s great to win this race on dirt after winning it before on pavement. I’ve had a great time running for Keith & Josh Ford and their crew chief Jimmy May, so I’m happy to get them their first Turkey Night win. This place has been pretty good to me,” Darland said.
Parker Price-Miller took the pole with a new track record of 16.889 seconds, and it was fellow race rookie Andrew Felker beating him off the front row to take the early lead. Felker led comfortably in the early going, as cars diced behind him. The first 26 laps went green, as Darren Hagen moved to the second spot ahead of Caleb Armstrong, Brad Sweet, and Darland.
The race fought through some cautions after that point, with torrid racing at the front while under green. The front five raced under a blanket, and Darland finally slid his way into the lead on lap 50. The next lap, Felker jumped the cushion and shredded his left-rear tire.
After that, the groove moved to the high side as Gardner threw a slide-job on Hagen for the second spot. Those two swapped spots as the race hit lap 75, after which yellows were no longer counted.
With 17 to go, Hagen stopped with issues and left the fight up front to Darland, Gardner, Sweet, Armstrong, and a hard-charging Zach Daum. On the restart, Gardner threw the big slider on Darland for the lead and it stuck, despite Darland trying a cross-over off turn-two. 2013 Honda National Dirt Midget champion Christopher Bell then joined the action with the top-five, but he stopped on lap 85 and retired from the event.
As the race went green for ten straight laps, Gardner was unrivaled at the front as Darland and Armstrong raced for second. Sweet and Gardner went at it for fourth at the same time. Coming to complete lap 95, Gardner lost his left-rear wheel in turn-four and stopped suddenly right in front of Darland and Armstrong, who narrowly missed him.
On the final restart, Darland got the jump as Sweet took advantage of Armstrong’s slow restart to vie for second. He held off Armstrong but had nothing for the lead, finishing second in the Esslinger Engineering – Factory Kahne #67z Breka/Esslinger.
2011 Turkey Night champ Armstrong finished a strong third in the C&A Motorsports – Winfield #7c Beast/Stanton Toyota. Daum ended up fourth in the Daum Crop Insurance – Weld Wheels #5D Eagle/Stanton Toyota, and 2013 Western Midget champ Ronnie Gardner rounded out the top-five in the Baldozier Racing – Schroeder Torsion Bars #68 Stewart/Esslinger.
“Don Basile Rookie of the Race” honors went to Tanner Thorson, who finished tenth.
HONDA USAC NATIONAL & WESTERN DIRT MIDGET RACE RESULTS: November 28, 2013 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway – 73rd “Turkey Night Grand Prix”
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Parker Price-Miller, 9P, Ronk-16.889; 2. Andrew Felker, 11A, Felker-16.958; 3. Brad Sweet, 67z, Kahne-17.1014; 4. Taylor Ferns, 55, Ferns-17.037; 5. Caleb Armstrong, 7c, C&A-17.051; 6. Dave Darland, 73, Ford-17.119; 7. Chris Windom, 3, RFMS-17.140; 8. Darren Hagen, 56A, Hmiel-17.155; 9. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-17.169; 10. Nick Drake, 55x, Cline-17.228; 11. Christopher Bell, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-17.230; 12. Dalton Armstrong, 7A, C&A-17.245; 13. Ronnie Gardner, 68, Johnson-17.265; 14. Damion Gardner, 4, Klatt-17.304; 15. Bryan Clauson, 39, Tucker/BCI/Curb-Agajanian-17.306; 16. Nic Faas, 25, Rodela-17.324; 17. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-17.357; 18. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-17.361; 19. Jarid Blondel, 98, Blondel-17.378; 20. Rico Abreu, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-17.402; 21. Mike Spencer, 51s, Fly-17.424; 22. Shannon McQueen, 7, McQueen-17.441; 23. Scott Pierovich, 35, Pierovich-17.445; 24. Jake Swanson, 05, VanDyne/Swanson-17.447; 25. Danny Stratton, 56P, Hmiel-17.454; 26. Ricky Shelton, 15, Neverlift-17.470; 27. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-17.473; 28. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-17.476; 29. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 72, Ford-17.487; 30. Taylor Simas, 62, Bock-17.539; 31. Shane Golobic, 26, Bock-17.588; 32. Kevin Swindell, 71x, Ronk-17.627; 33. Brad Kuhn, 10, Cook-17.643; 34. Thomas Meseraull, 0, Lamott-17.659; 35. Kyle Edwards, 39K, Edwards-17.659; 36. Nick Chivello, 27, Chivello-17.670; 37. Trey Marcham, 37, McQueen-17.679; 38. Jac Haudenschild, 73x, Ford-17.749; 39. Cody Swanson, 71s, Swanson-17.755; 40. Chris Ennis, 86, Ennis-17.897; 41. Rick Hendrix, 12, Hendrix-18.116; 42. Joey Fabozzi, 84, Fabozzi-18.158; 43. Terry Nichols, 45, Neverlift-18.202; 44. Kyle Smith, 55K, Smith-18.320; 45. Terry Goodwin, 2G, Goodwin-18.440; 46. Randi Pankratz, 8, Pankratz-18.503; 47. Tony Everhart, 55T, Everhart-18.866; 48. Danny Ebberts, 2, Boyd-NT (time of 18.326 disallowed).
FIRST B MAIN : (12 laps) 1. Daum, 2. Pierovich, 3. T. Thomas, 4. Stratton, 5. Spencer, 6. Clauson, 7. C. Swanson, 8. K. Thomas, 9. Marcham, 10. Golobic, 11. Edwards, 12. Goodwin, 13. Kuhn, 14. Blondel, 15. Hendrix, 16. Nichols, 17. Everhart.
SECOND B MAIN : (12 laps) 1. Abreu, 2. McQueen, 3. Thorson, 4. Faas, 5. J. Swanson, 6. Swindell, 7. Haudenschild, 8. Meseraull, 9. Simas, 10. Johnson, 11. Chivello, 12. Ennis, 13. Fabozzi, 14. Ebberts, 15. Smith, 16. Pankratz, 17. Shelton.
FEATURE: (98 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Brad Sweet, 3. Caleb Armstrong, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Ronnie Gardner, 6. Nic Faas, 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Rico Abreu, 9. Mike Spencer, 10. Tanner Thorson, 11. Tracy Hines, 12. Damion Gardner, 13. Brad Kuhn, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 16. Nick Drake, 17. Danny Stratton, 18. Parker Price-Miller, 19. Dalton Armstrong, 20. Trey Marcham, 21. Christopher Bell, 22. Andrew Felker, 23. Taylor Ferns, 24. Darren Hagen, 25. Shannon McQueen, 26. Cody Swanson, 27. Kevin Swindell, 28. Jac Haudenschild, 29. Chris Windom, 30. Scott Pierovich, 31. Bryan Clauson, 32. Thomas Meseraull, 33. Randi Pankratz.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-49 Felker, Laps 50-81 Darland, Laps 82-94 D.Gardner, Laps 95-98 Darland.
**Kuhn flipped on the start of 1st B Main. Shelton flipped in the 2nd B Main. C. Swanson flipped on lap 78.
FINAL HONDA NATIONAL DIRT MIDGET POINTS: 1-Bell-1,101; 2-Clauson-984; 3-Hagen-921; 4-Hines-920; 5-Abreu-873; 6-Jerry Coons, Jr.-770; 7-Daum-758; 8-Felker-709; 9-Kuhn-667; 10-C.Armstrong-650.