LOS ANGELES, California — The So Cal tradition of mixing turkey and methanol continued for the 12th consecutive year at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale. Attendance was almost 5,000 again despite a chilly evening. The $8.00 color cover, 48-page USAC Midget Thanksgiving Night Grand Prix program cover had TNGP Midget 2009 winner Bryan Clauson (# 11 DMS Beast/Esslinger/Ford) and 1939 winner Mel Hansen (# 1) on the cover to show the contrast between current midgets and those of 70 years ago. ... There were 15 vintage midgets and sprint cars on display in the TS@I chalet village display area near the pit entrance. ...The Midget 98-lap feature distance (instead of the usual 100-laps) came about to honor the late race organizer J. C. Agajanian. Kirk Rockwell, an inventor/equipment vendor from Lakeview Terrace, gave that suggestion to J. C. Agajanian, Jr. about six years earlier. It took hold in 2007 when Dave Darland won the first 98-lap TNGP. The $33,000 Midget TN GP purse awarded the top ten $6,000, $3,200, $2,100, $1,500, $1,200, $1,000, $875, $825, $800 and $725; 25th through last positions paid $450. USAC considers the Agajanian family the TNGP race organizer of record to honor their USAC racing contributions over the years. They place the race at whatever speedway they desire. The track promoter (TS@I) actually promotes the TNGP and pays the purse each year.
Videographer Dean Mills was on the race control roof at Irwindale giving Internet users video feed and audio from track PA announcer Rob Klepper of USAC. Mills said the Irwindale track connection was solid. It should be because national television broadcasts have been successful for years from the modern, multi-groove, paved track that continues to be a fan and racer favorite even after 12 seasons. ... Within the last year, racing engine builder Joe Fontana retired and sold his Gardena business. The RFMS USAC Midget crew said their boss, Don Fike, bought Fontana'a firm and moved it to Indiana, north of Indianapolis. The new site is now located in expanded space at Gaerte Racing Engines in Rochester, IN. One of Fontana's long-time employees moved to Indiana to work on midget racing engines. ... Cleo, a friendly 10-year old yellow Lab, rode in the blue Jeep push vehicle from Bakersfield again. Four years ago she gave birth to 13 yellow Lab puppies and one daughter still resides with her and is the TNGP push vehicle understudy. ... The 12th annual Fred Ercse Classic at Go-Kart World in Carson on Tuesday night, Nov. 23 was rained out. Driver J. J. Ercse and his family conduct this fun event to raise money for the American Heart Assn each year during TNGP week. Past winners of the event are: Chris Tooley (1999-00), Josh Wise (01), Garrett Hansen (02), Blake Miller (03-04), Wise (05), Greg Alexander (06), Hansen (07), rain-out (08), and Jake Argo (09). So Cal racing fans will recognize Wise, Hansen, Miller and Alexander as local midget/sprint car feature winners.
DRIVERS BY STATES: The 2010 TNGP had drivers from 18 different states and five sprint car drivers from Canada. MIDGETS: The 36 drivers came from 10 states as follows: 16 from CA; 10 IN, 3 AZ, and one each from CO, ID, IL, MO, MA, TN and WI. SPRINTS had 29 drivers from six states and five from Canada. CA led with 12 drivers, followed by 6 from ID, 2 each from IN and UT, and 1 each from CO and WA. The FORD FOCUS division had 33 drivers from 12 states: 17 CA, 4 UT, 2 each IL and NC, and 1 each from AZ, CO, IN, MO, NV, OR, VA and WA. ... Many of the racing teams from Idaho, Utah and Colorado planned to tow home Friday and stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch the two-night ASCS winged 410 sprint car races at the LVMS half-mile dirt track on Fri-Sat. Nov. 26-27. (NASCAR Cup star Tony Stewart won the 25-lap feature Friday and Joey Saldana took Saturday's 35-lap main.) ... TNGP FEMALE DRIVERS: There were three in the FF Midgets--Jessica Clark, 16, Taylor Ferns, 14, and newcomer Terra Brower, 21, from Utah. The sprints had just two--Shauna Hogg and Idaho's Sierra Jackson, in her first visit to Irwindale. No females raced in midgets this year although top ten drivers Shannon McQueen and Randi Pankratz spectated from the pits.
CHASSIS/ ENGINES: Midgets: There were three chassis builders--Beast dominated the field with 32 cars, followed by Spike with 4 and Gerhardt with 1. Seven engine manufacturers were led by Esslinger-Ford with 18, Toyota 8, Fontana 4, TRD Toyota 3, Mopar 2, and 1 each from Ford and Van Dyne. ... Ford Focus Midgets had nine chassis represented. Beast led with 15, Steve Kent had 5, Stealth 4, Edmunds Autoresearch, Gerhardt and Wysong 2 each, and Hawk, Stewart and TCR 1 each. ... The 29 sprint car field had 11 different chassis builders—9 Beast, 8 Eagle, 2 each from East, LeJeune, and OCR, and 1 each from A & A, Competition Welding, Hornet, Jenkins, J & J, and Sheeny. The sprint field had seven engine builders—18 Chevy, 3 Shaver, 2 each Ford, Losorwith,and Schwenke, and 1 each from Montgomery and Schmelzle.
It was gratifying to see so many midget and sprint car drivers return to their open-wheel, short-track roots at the 70th TNGP. Some of them have made forays into NASCAR stock car or truck racing. They all want to include on their racing resume a victory in the prestigious TNGP that dates to 1934 and has some of the most famous names in racing listed among past winners. Returnees this year included winner Bryan Clauson (a 2008 NASCAR Nationwide driver in Chip Ganassi's No. 40), Cole Whitt, the No. 84 Red Bull driver in NASCAR K & N East and Nationwide 2010 races), Brad Sweet, the No. 90 Great Clips truck driver, Kevin Swindell, No. 9 K & N East stock car driver), Chad Boat, NASCAR K & N West & East driver, Bobby Santos III, 2010 NASCAR Northeast Modified champion, Davey Hamilton, Indy Car 2009-2010 Indy 500 starter, Jason Leffler, P. 9 in NASCAR Nationwide Series final points, and Josh Wise, NASCAR Nationwide Series 25th ranked driver (of 156 drivers with 2010 points). Josh raced in 25 of the 35 NNS races. He drove the No. 61 at Daytona, the 27, 46, 7 and 88 cars during the season and tallied 2,161 points. He had two top tens (including a P. 7) along with P. 13-15 finishes and earned $563,460 for his teams. The 7 and 88 rides were for Junior Racing (Dale Earnhardt, Jr) with Tony Eury, Jr as his crew chief. Josh sub-drove the No. 7 Go-Daddy.com Chevy when Danica Patrick was not available. He usually qualified well and finished in the top 15. Danica's best finish was a P. 19 in the same car. Eury reportedly likes Josh's ability to qualify well, give good feedback and finish strong in races. Josh also had two late season NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying attempts for a new team to get his foot in the door. TV announcers such as Marty Reid and Dale Jarrett have praised Josh on air during 2010 NNS races.
Personable Bryan Clauson, who had a broken bone in a hand wrapped securely during late season races, took the checkered flag on lap 98 at 10:06 pm. After interviews at the finish line with infield announcer Larry Naston, the TNGP winner posed for numerous photos at the Chalet Village victory lane. Clauson came up to the press box from 10:50 to 10:55 pm and answered questions for the four remaining media members. He said his car did not take off at the lap 80 green flag because the handling was going away. He said he just kept a pace fast enough to hold the lead to the lap 98 checkers. “When I pulled to a stop (for post-race interviews) I found out why the handling was going away. The right front tire was going flat after running over some debris.” He added, “it's pretty special to win two GP races in a row. Billy Boat is synonymous with racing and he won three in a row. It's good to be a two-time winner of this race. The pressure was off by winning the titles (2010 USAC National Midget Championship and USAC National Driver Championship for best results in 25 national series races) before the Thanksgiving GP started.” Clauson continued, “I made some three-wide moves early. I was confident I could made a run to the front. We used the new Toyota TRD motor and it was good to see it in victory lane. My next goal is to win a Chili Bowl (Tulsa, OK Midget Classic) in January. I'm also looking forward to the Indy Lights 2011 program and racing at the Indy Motor Speedway on Saturday before the 500. I'll still race in the USAC Silver Crown Hoosier 100 on Friday before the 500.” The three winning car owners are Corey Tucker (engine expert for the No. 39 Ryan Newman NASCAR Cup car), Clauson Racing and Keith Kunz, owner of the paved track car that they picked up this summer to make their run for the 2010 championship. Asked if he would race in the USAC/CRA 410 sprint car race two nights after the TNGP as he did last year when he won at Irwindale and at Perris, Bryan said no. He planned to celebrate a belated Thanksgiving in California with his family—dad, mom, sister, uncle and grandma. The winning No. 39 Beast/TRD Toyota was new in late 2009 and was the No. 67 car that Henry Clarke drove in the 2009 TNGP according to owner Kunz.
Back-to-back TNGP winner Clauson also won the National Midget Driver of the Year (NMDOTY) championship over 509 drivers from all circuits. Points for major races are assigned by Midwesterner Bryan Gapinski each year. Clauson had major USAC victories in the Hut 100, Belleville (KS) Nationals, plus the TNGP. FINAL STANDINGS: NMDOTY Drivers: Clauson (11 wins) 1,564, Brad Loyet (13 wins) 1,359, Brad Kuhn 1,334, Jerry Coons, Jr 1,214, Steve Buckwalter 988, Darren Hagen 958, Tracy Hines 937, Brad Sweet 886, Zach Daum 807 and Dave Darland 769. ... Car Owners: # 39 Corey Tucker 1,519, # 05 Loyet 1,359, # 17B RW Motorsports 1,290, # 11 Wilke 1,044, # 3 Don Fike 878. ... Rookie of the Year: TNGP rookie of the race Dalton Armstrong 494, Tim Buckwalter 310, Alex Bright 286, Dillon Welch 204, Shane Golobic 191. ... MANUFACTURERS-Chassis--Spike 448, Beast 184, Stealth 89, Buzzard 31, Bullet 26. Engine—Esslinger-Ford 367, Toyota 135, Fontana 75, Mopar 71, Gaerte 54. The top ten drivers and top five car owners, rookie of the year, plus the top chassis and engine manufacturers will receive NMDOTY trophies and point fund checks in the annual ceremony on the final night of the Lucas Oil Tulsa (OK) Chili Bowl Midget Nationals on January 15, 2011. That annual classic midget event attracts more than 200 midget teams to compete on five nights from January 11-15 on a quarter-mile indoor clay track. Names of the 2012 inductees into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, IA will be revealed during the same event in Tulsa.
FASTEST IN PRACTICE: TNGP practice started at noon on race day. All three divisions ran two sessions prior to single car qualifying. FORD FOCUS: Session one at 12:00 had Cody Gerhardt (No. 40) fastest of 29 at 14.301. Session two at 1:25 pm had Dylan Cappello quickest of 31 at 14.319. The fastest of 33 qualifiers at 3:30 was first-time USAC racer Cappello,14, from Peoria, AZ, with a 14.262 (84.056 mph) just off the 14.249 track record that Todd Hunsaker set in 2003. ... SPRINT CARS: The first session at 12:25 had Kody Swanson best of 25 with his 16.472. Session two at 1:55 found Kody still fastest of 27 with a 16.351. In 4:00 time trials his brother Tanner Swanson set FQ time of 16.139 (111.531 mph) for a NTR. Three drivers, including Scott Pierovich (14 Pierson) at 16.351, beat the old 1-lap TR of 16.378 set in 2003 by Michael Lewis, from Indiana. San Jose driver Nick Green, son of retired WoO sprint car driver Tim Green, had a car problem and DNQ. ... MIDGETS: In session one at 12:55 pm Tanner Swanson was fastest of 36 drivers at 16.698 in his new ride—the Fike No. 3. In session two at 2:25, teenager Alex Bowman was fastest of 36 at 16.683. His No. 55 Troy Cline Haas Engineering ride was a new 2010 Beast with only eight races on it before the TNGP. In time trials at 4:30, Kody Swanson set FQ time of 16.472 (109.276 mph) for a NTR. The old TR was 16.556 by Dave Steele in 2003. FF qualifying for all 33 cars ran under sunny sky and 65 degrees temp from 3:15-3:45 pm. After the midget main the temp had dropped to 45 degrees. Sprint TT ran from 3:56-4:24 and 27 of 29 cars made qualifying attempts. Midgets qualified from 4:47-5:25 and 36 of 37 cars ran two laps. Only Clauson had an unneeded back-up car in the pits. ... Another NTR came in the 12-lap Midget race won by Garrett Hansen (#70). His winning time of 3:23.31 beat the 3:26.73 by Josh Wise on 11/27/03. The 98 lap TR set by Dave Darland on 11/22/07 of 33:09.135 (88.682 mph) almost fell this year to Clauson, whose winning time was 33:53.43.
SPRINTS: If the No. 51 sprinter looked like the Jeff Gardner 51 Beast it's because it was. Jeff, from Fresno,sold it to the McClouski brothers of B.C,Canada. ... Tracy Hines, 38, was back in Andy Morales' No. 27 “Tamale Wagon” after winning the 2008 TNGP sprint feature aboard it in only its' 16th race. Twelve of those 16 races were at Irwindale. Andy only brings his car out to the TNGP for Hines to drive. It still has the 1980s era “Tamale Wagon” colors--black, orange, yellow and white that Alex Morales used. It is a 1999 J & J chassis with the original Shaver engine. Andy was absent last year because he was in Texas, so Tracy picked up the Ted Finkenbinder's No. 3F ride for the 2009 TNGP sprint race. Jimmy Sills drove Andy's sprinter five times and Wally Pankratz raced it once in 1999. Hines has been the 27 driver since 2000. He used it to win a USAC 360 sprint main on 3/24/01 at Irwindale. The car sat idle in 2004-05 while Hines raced the No. 13 NASCAR truck for points. Hines returned to USAC and raced the Morales 27 to TNGP 40-lap sprint car finishes of P. 3 (2006) and P. 7 (2007) . Hines even did some welding on the 27 car. He won the 2008 TNGP 40-lap main in Andy's No. 27. It sat idle until the 2010 when Hines started 7th and finished 8th in only the 17th race for the latest “Tamale Wagon”.
You had to guess which Armstrong midget was in which position during the 98-lap feature because the three Armstrong cars ran close together on the track and looked alike. All three midgets were black and used No. 7 (7A Dalton, 7C Caleb and 7D Dakoda). When the race concluded, Caleb was 2nd, rookie Dalton was 3rd, and Dakoda was 6th. Dalton passed fellow race rookie Kyle Hamilton on L 80 and that pass resulted in the Don Basile Rookie of the Race Award for Dalton over 4th finisher Hamilton. The three-car Armstrong Beast/Toyota team from New Castle, IN. enjoyed outstanding success at the 2010 TNGP. All three midgets, driven by two brothers and their first cousin, were on the top ten scoring pylon all the way. The letter designation behind each car 7 could not be put on the pylon, leaving even veteran race watchers confused about the drivers of the 7 cars. Their 18-wheeler carried all three cars from their Indiana shop to Irwindale via I-44-40-15-210 with two hauler drivers sharing the 32-hour driving chore. ... Marc DeBeaumont's DMS Racing/F & F Mechanical team fielded three Beast/Esslinger Ford midgets for the 2010 TNGP. Chad Boat (No. 11D) and Jason Leffler (51) made the feature. Kevin Swindell (98-Curb-Agajanian Spl/Curb Records sponsorship) had mechanical problems and did not start a 12-lap qualifying race. ... Two qualifying races for qualifiers 15-36 fastest divided those qualifiers by odd and even number qualifying positions with the first eight finishers in each race advancing to the 98-lap feature. Two nationally known drivers who figured top make the feature did not advance. K. Swindell's No. 98 Esslinger engine seized before the lap 1 green flag and he pulled into the pits. He experienced “no brake pedal” during afternoon practice and his crew corrected that problem. Davey Hamilton (No. 4 Bob Rosen Beast/Fontana) was spun out of P. 6 in his qualifying race by a rookie on the final lap in the final turn with the checkers waving. Davey, who recovered and finished tenth, went to the pits of the rookie driver who spun him and asked what he was thinking because both drivers were in transfer positions. Dillon Welch, from Carmel, IN., remained silent.
TNGP ROOKIE CLASS: Last year there were nine Midget rookies in the TNGP feature. There were eight Midget rookies in the GP this year. Kyle Hamilton 18, (# 9), Dillon Welch, 17 (# 6), Cody Swanson, 20 (# 5x), Connor DePhillippi (# 8), Chad Nichols (# 17), David Byrne (# 20), Nick Chivello, 18 (# 27B) and Dalton Armstrong (# 7A). Six of them made the 98-lap feature and only the 5x and 27B drivers had to watch it from the pits. The starting and finishing positions of the 2010 TNGP rookies were: Armstrong (17 – 3), Howard (2 – 4), Nichols (20 – 10), Welch (26 – 12), De Phillippi (28 – 18) and Byrne (18 – 26). ... FASTEST LAPS IN FEATURES: Caleb Armstrong's 17.008 was the fastest lap in the 98-lap midget main. Clauson's 17.014 and Dalton Armstrong's 17.075 were the next quickest laps. Sprints: Winner K. Swanson ran the fastest lap at 16.364 and his younger brother Tanner (a DNF) ran the second fastest lap at 16.446. FF Midgets: Winner Jake Blackhurst ran the fastest feature lap, a 14.229 (84.250 mph) on lap 19 of 30. That lap was under the track's one-lap track record of 14.249 set in 2003. Cappello's 14.249 (84.132 mph) was next quickest on lap 29 of 30 as the fastest qualifier raced forward from the 15th row and finished only 5.694 seconds behind the winner. One could only wonder where Cappello would have finished if the race had run the scheduled 40 laps. ... Kyle O'Gara, 15, from Indiana, drove Bob East's No. 4 Beast FF Midget with sponsorship from Sarah Fisher Racing. He is related to Sarah by her marriage to her Indy Car crew chief Andy O'Gara. Sarah planned to come to the TNGP to watch Kyle race in Irwindale, where she raced a NASCAR West stock car for Bill McAnally's team about four years ago. If she did so she kept a low profile. Kyle started racing karts at age 4 and finished third in 2010 USAC Midwest FF Series points out of 56 drivers despite missing four events. The high school sophomore came west for the first time in November and raced in the USAC FF National Championship race on Nov. 6 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway “Bullring”. With 25 FF midgets present, Kyle set fifth fastest qualifying time and finished fourth in the 35-lap feature. In the TNGP FF event Kyle set started 22nd and finished ninth, with 13 drivers on the lead lap and 19 cars on the track.
Multi-USAC Midget National Championship car owner Steve Lewis skipped the 2009 TNGP as an entrant. This year he found two outstanding teenage drivers for the Midget and FF divisions. They are talented future stars to keep an eye on as they climb their racing career ladders. Kyle Hamilton, 18, from Danville, IN, set the second fastest midget qualifying time (under the old TR) and raced from second on the grid to P. 4 at the finish in his first TS@I competition. He slipped to P. 8 early before racing up to third position at mid-race. He and Lewis' FF Midget driver Dylan Cappello, 14, practiced Monday, Nov. 22 from 5 to 9 pm when their car owner Lewis rented TS@I along with stock car drivers Jason Patison and Brian Deegan. The teens learned the track well based on their rapid qualifying laps and results in their features. Diminutive Cappello, a winged modified midget driver in Arizona, set FQ time (nearly a FF Midget NTR) and came from the back of the main to finish in P. 7. He said, “It was great fun coming from the back and passing all those cars. I learned a lot and look forward to next season.” Five first time FF racers at the Irwindale third-mile were positioned at the back in rows 15, 16 and 17 for safety reasons. They were # 9x Cappello, # 59 Winn Frazin, 14, # 98 Jarid Blondel, 14, # 92 Mike Steele, 31, and # 12k Stan Sims, 46, in a Cory Kruseman car. ... Nick Drake, 15, from Mooresville, N.C, is the son of USAC champion driver Jay Drake. His mom Denise, who was present in the pits, raced CA Lightning mini sprints. Nick's step-father and No. 55 FF Midget car owner is former sprint car and stock car driver Troy Cline from So Cal. Nick led the final 25 laps and won the November 6 LVMS Bullring 35-lap feature in Cline's No. 55 Beast. He led the first 18 laps of 30 in the TNGP and finished third.
Ron Sutton's Winner's Circle Driver Development Program expanded its fleet of Steve Kent-built FF midgets to five this year. The drivers (with ages and racing backgrounds) were: Eli Schrock, 17, from VA—karts & micro sprints—goal NASCAR; Cody Thompson, 17, CA—quarter midgets, micro sprints—goal NASCAR Cup; Bobby Runyan, 17, CA—IKF karts, Formula Fords 2009, SCCA FF San Francisco Region rookie of year & champion—goal to be the best; Keegan Walmer, 15, OR—quarter midgets, FF Midgets 2009—goal NASCAR Cup; Austin Farley, 16, CO—micro sprints, shifter karts—goal NASCAR. Walmer was the only Sutton driver with TS@I racing experience and that was only at the 2009 TNGP. Jessica Clark, 16, had her own car, but she was a Sutton associate team member. Winn Frazin came from quarter midgets and raced both dirt and paved tracks with two cars. Rancho Cucamonga's Tony Cinque, 20, raced a Wally Pankratz-owned racing school car.
MIDGET DNFs: Western Midget title-hopeful Cory Kruseman (21k) had a broken front bolt; fellow USAC Western title-contender Robby Josett (2) had the power steering line chaffed on aluminum and it resulted in a power steering leak, so he pulled into the infield. Alex Bowman (55) broke a brake rotor. K. Swanson (11) had his RR tire go flat early so he pulled to the infield. T. Swanson (3) had an engine problem. Teammates Cole Whitt (71) and Henry Clarke (67) had ignition failures. Clarke came into the pits before the lap 1 green and never returned. ... The TNGP high mid-day temperature last year was in the low 80s and only in the mid-60s this year. That fact helped explain the NTRs set in qualifying and races. CAR COUNTS: The 2010 car count this year was 99—37 Midgets, 29 Sprints and a track record 33 FF midgets. Last year had 94 cars in the same three divisions—25 FF midgets, 28 sprints and 41 midgets. The FF record car count was 31 cars in 2008. ... A new National Midget Hall of Fame plaque containing names of all the past inductees was presented during the TNGP practice session at 7:30 pm as more than 80 cars practiced during three session per division from 2 to 8 pm. Ed Justice, Jr, Jason Leffler and Steve Lewis donated the impressive plaque that duplicates one on display at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in Pennsylvania. Curator Leslie Kendall of the Petersen Automotive Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, accepted the plaque for display at the Petersen Museum.
PERSONALITIES PRESENT: Doug Wolfgang was present at the TNGP signing his book. ... Drivers Sammy Swindell and Billy Boat were in the pits assisting the midget teams of their racing sons, Kevin and Chad. ... Retired sprint car drivers Jimmy Oskie, Steve Howard and Duke Cook were in the pits during practice Wednesday. ... Past TNGP and Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones and his son Page (the TNGP Grand Marshal) were present each day. ... Indy 500 vet/current Indy Lights team owner Sam Schmidt was present in his wheelchair to present a 2011 scholarship of six oval track rides in his Indy Lights car to Clauson. The 2010 TNGP winner out-pointed absent Levi Jones in their best 25 USAC National Series race results for this first-time scholarship offer. IZOD Indy Car President Randy Bernard, the ex-Pro Bull Riders Assn CEO, was present Thursday night for the presentation to Clauson. The prize was in keeping with Bernard's plan to offer open-wheel grass roots racers a path to Indy 500 rides. Bernard later came into the press box and answered questions for a few minutes. He seemed to be an ideal leader for Indy Car as stated by Robin Miller on SPEED. Bernard solicits input and really listens before he acts. His move from ISC to SRI speedways for a fresh start in 2011 is promising. He also is on top of the parent Comcast/NBC-TV deal and the Versus Network TV deal and hopes to gain greater TV exposure on TV for the Indy Car Series. Bernard's moves to increase the number of engine manufacturers and Indy body styles builders on the Dallara chassis are welcome. So too is his placing respected Tony Cotman in a key role working with ICS committee members. Bernard is a catalyst and quick to praise the committee that developed the 2012 Indy Car rules. He deflects praise from himself, a trait of an ideal leader. ... Steve Chassey, a 3-time Indy 500 driver (1983-87) was present for the TNGP Wednesday practice. The ex-CRA sprint car driver (1960s-70s) is a Wells Fargo Special Risks, Inc. VP, Motorsports Division in Westfield, IN. He could not stay for the race because he had to fly north to Washington to meet promoter Steve Beitler and inspect a speedway Friday for racing insurance.
Keith Iaia's SCREAM, Inc., in Harbor City, pioneered building Ford Focus engines for midget racing as a separate USAC division. Driver Josh Lakatos was an employee. Then Keith moved his firm north to the San Miguel/Paso Robles area. He now builds the Chevy ECOTec engine at his Revolution Racing Engines shop for use in midgets. The GM ECOTec 2.4 liter engine is $10,995 complete. ... FF No. 25 owner/driver Charles Maier, Hayward, CA, drove the 2008 Beast he built two years ago. He sold his No. 33 2006 Beast that he bought from the Monte Faccinto (No. 4) team. ... The FF No. 25 Jake Blackhurst feature winning Beast was a new car for 2010 and not the car he drove to P. 6 as a rookie in the 2009 TNGP in his first TS@I race. He and his team flew home Friday. ... Mike Steele, 31, took over the No. 92 Stealth/FF midget ride for parents Henry II (known as “2-wheel Steele” as a TQ midget driver) and Linda Steele. His older brother Henry III drove the same car two years ago as a rookie in the 2008 TNGP. In October 2010 Henry III died unexpectedly, leaving behind his wife and several children, including a newborn. Mike also raced the family 360 sprint car No. 29 at Ventura. Mike's first FF midget ride ended with a flip in the third turn early in the TNGP FF main and a badly damaged car. His mom Linda is the sister of Mike Shaw (CRA sprint car No. 92 owner/driver) who lost his life in April, 1979 after an Ascot Park qualifying flip in Greg Cunningham's No. 7. For folks wondering what the date is for the 71st TNGP is here it is—November 24, 2011.