VENTURA, Calif. – Logan Seavey took the lead for good on Lap 42 of Saturday’s Turkey Night Grand Prix and held it the rest of the way under intense pressure from Buddy Kofoid, who left Ventura Raceway with a huge consolation prize—the USAC National Midget championship.
Kofoid spent the final 56 laps of the 98-lap event dogging Seavey’s No. 25 midget racer and trying to force the leader into a mistake on a night when the top of the track wasn’t viable late in the race.
Hugging the bottom throughout the final half of the race and benefiting from clean air thanks to a rash of late cautions, Seavey crossed the finish line .335 seconds ahead of Kofoid, who secured the series title when he started the race.
“The last time I passed him—right before I passed him—I seen him (Kofoid) on the bottom and he was pretty committed so I know he was feeling some rubber,” Seavey said of what proved to be the winning pass in traffic. “The second I went back by him on the bottom, I figured if nothing went crazily wrong, I was sitting pretty good. It would be tough to go around me in the rubber (to the outside). So I just got down and saved my tires after that.
“But it wasn’t really until I took the checkered that I knew how long my tire was going to last. I saw his tires under red (an open red-flag condition with 14 laps left). I knew he had only a couple of laps left, and I had eight to 10 laps left. I was saving all race really. I knew it was a little better than Buddy’s, but I also started running a little bit harder at the end, too. I really didn’t know what was going to happen there.”
The victory was especially meaningful to Seavey, whose hometown is Sutter, Calif.
“This is huge being Turkey Night, obviously being in California it’s the biggest race of the year for me and the biggest race for my team, too. We’re all from California—from the owner to the crew chief and the engine builder. We’re all from California, so this is the race we’ve been looking forward to all year.”
Kofoid was just as eager to race Saturday night, after building a 47-point cushion over defending series champion Chris Windom during the USAC California swing. After qualifying third, Kofoid simply had to show up for the start to win the championship.
“It’s funny I really didn’t feel it after qualifying because I was like, ‘Man, we still have the whole day left to go,’” Kofoid said. “It kind of felt weird to celebrate, because the season isn’t technically over yet until the checkered flag drops. Now that it’s over, it feels pretty damn good and to run decent on Turkey Night is also another feather in your cap. Try to come back next year and beat all these guys.”
He was one pass away from doing just that on Saturday.
“The first probably 30 laps was pretty decent, the track slicked off quick, you could go right to the top,” Kofoid said. “I kind of got behind early and fell back to fifth then got on the top and started ripping it. I felt pretty good up there and got the lead back and started cruising. It’s funny. I don't quite remember how I got past him.
“In traffic, we went back and forth. He got me. He led for a while. I ran him down and got him again when lapped traffic was thick—two-wide. I started trying to roll the bottom and I think he must have got me on the outside right before it took rubber, and that was it. Probably 50-to-60ish laps in the rubber is not the most enjoyable thing, but running behind Logan I thought we were better, honestly.
“We could get right up to his bumper after a lap or two on the restart and kind of push on him a little bit but it was just tough to pass at that point.”
Mitchell Moles ran third, .803 seconds behind Seavey, having passed defending race winner Kyle Larson moments after a Lap 85 restart. Larson held fourth, and pole winner Kaylee Bryson came home fifth, the best finish ever for a female driver in the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
In fact, Bryson and fellow drivers Taylor Reimer and Maria Cofer made history in a number of ways. Bryson was the first woman to win a pole for the Turkey Night race. She and Reimer, a University of Oklahoma cheerleader, made up the first all-female front row for a USAC national race when they qualified 1-2 during time trials—with Bryson missing Johnny Cofer’s 11.675-second track record by .003 seconds.
“It’s pretty cool to come out here and get fifth tonight,” said the 20-year-old Bryson, who drives the No. 71 Toyota for Keith Kunz Motorsports. “We started on the pole, and we led a lot of laps. It was a 98-lap feature, so it was a pretty cool deal tonight. This is definitely a big event, so it was pretty cool to do it with my team.
“As a girl, it can be hard to get sponsors because it’s a guy-dominated sport, so you have to do well whenever you’re at major events like these. So to finish fifth, I think that’s good for that. This was super cool. I had a blast tonight."
Maria Cofer qualified seventh, marking the first time in USAC history three women have started from the top seven spots on the grid for a USAC national series event.
Bryson and Reimer ran 1-2 for the first 15 laps, before Kofoid charged into the lead for the first time. Never before had a female driver led a lap on Turkey Night.
With an eighth-place finish, Reimer also beat the previous best result by a woman of 13th, and Cofer matched it.
Justin Grant ran sixth behind Bryson, followed by Ryan Bernal, Reimer, Tanner Thorson and Zeb Wise.
Thorson perhaps had other things on his mind, having proposed marriage to long-time girlfriend Shaylee Smith on the beach earlier in the day. She accepted.
Note: In the USAC West Coast 360 Turkey Night for sprint cars, AJ Bender took advantage of the penultimate restart—passing three cars in one corner—to hold off Ryan Bernal, Carson Macedo and Troy Rutherford for the win.
Chase Randall came home fifth, followed by Chase Johnson, Max Adams, Jacob Tuttle, Brody Roa and Kyle Edwards.