2008 Indy Lights race carEnlarge Photo
The racing season might be over for most people – after all, Jimmie Johnson now owns five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships after a come-from-behind battle won as Carl Edwards took his second straight Ford FR9 victory, Sebastian Vettel is the Formula 1 World Champion after his own game of catch-up.
So what’s left? How about the Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix, now in its 70th running and, this year, at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, CA. Turkey Night used to be held at Ascot in Gardena before it became a parking lot for auction vehicles but since moving to the 1/2-mile track at Irwindale, the action has been hot and heavy.There’s another item on the line for that particular night, as USAC crowns its national champion. More than a check is involved here for either Levi Jones or Bryan Clauson, both of them eligible for the crown. Coming into this race, Clauson leads Jones by five points, both aiming to get $40,000 for winning the USAC National Drivers title.
Whoever wins this title will also get a $300,000 scholarship to compete in oval races during the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship, precursor to the IZOD IndyCar Series. This is the first time since the IndyCar Series began competition back in 1996 that it truly will have an All-American “Road to Indy”.Put the credit to Randy Bernard, the IndyCar Series’ latest CEO who has zero experience in racing but does one thing most CEO’s don’t do: listen to the buying public. When fans asked for more Americans, Bernard aced this deal with USAC to make sure home-bred asphalt and dirt-track racers could finally race on the 2.5-mile oval that’s the Holy Grail to any open-wheel driver: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
So the racing season really isn’t over yet – there’s another weekend of scores to settle and titles to be won. The biggest title of all gets the winner in front of the home crowd at Indy two days before the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, during the Indy Lights’ Freedom 100. It’s an opportunity worth fighting for and, most likely, the battle in the chill of Thanksgiving night will be an excellent one.© 2010 Anne Proffit