USAC Midget title fight leads to Turkey Night finale
Three-way battle to be decided at Perris Auto Speedway.
Only 36 points separate the top-three drivers in USAC's Honda National Midget Series entering Thursday night's 74th "Turkey Night Grand Prix" at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.
Combatants Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell and Tracy Hines (in photo) all have significant objectives as they chase the championship going into the season finale. Ronnie Gardner of Norco, Calif. is set to celebrate his second consecutive Honda USAC Western Midget crown at Perris.
Abreu, of Rutherford, Calif., eyes his initial USAC National title, while teammate Bell, of Norman, Okla., is seeking his second in a row. Hines, of New Castle, Ind., could enter the prestigious USAC "Triple Crown" list by claiming his first National Midget crown. Bell trails Abreu by 26 points and Hines stands just 36 back of the leader.
Ronnie Gardner of Norco, Calif. virtually clinched the 2014 Honda USAC Western overall and dirt championships after his seventh-place finish in Saturday's Peoria finale.
Hines starts strong
Hines opened last week's 47th Sands Chevrolet "Western World Championships" at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria, Ariz. with a 30-lap feature victory in his Parker Machinery/Toyota Spike/Toyota. He passed Zach Daum on lap 12 and led the rest of the way to beat Bell, Tanner Thorson, Daum and Bryan Clauson.
Bell came back on Friday to lead all 30 laps at Peoria in his Toyota TRD/Curb Records Bullet/Speedway Toyota. Clauson finished second ahead of Daum, Hines and Thorson.
Saturday's "Western World" finale saw Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif. hold off repeated challenges from several drivers to win the 30-lap championship in his Great Clips/Fatheadz Eyewear Triple X/Esslinger. He led the first six laps, trailed Tanner Thorson for five laps, then led the last 19 laps to polish off the victory over Thorson, Bell, Hines and Clauson.
Thursday's Perris classic concludes with a 98-lap feature event, saluting long-time race organizer J.C. Agajanian. Gardner and the Honda USAC National Champion will be recognized during post-race ceremonies.
HONDA USAC NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-Rico Abreu-996; 2-Christopher Bell-970; 3-Tracy Hines-960; 4-Bryan Clauson-912; 5-Zach Daum-814; 6-Tanner Thorson-741; 7-Chris Windom-594; 8-Michael Pickens-499; 9-Dave Darland-419; 10-Tyler Thomas-395.
HONDA USAC WESTERN MIDGET POINTS: 1-Ronnie Gardner-761, 2-Trey Marcham-653, 3-Jarid Blondel-632, 4-Alex Schutte-443, 5-Chad Nichols-433, 6-Shannon McQueen-357, 7-Scott Pierovich-327, 8-Christopher Bell-324, 9-Nick Chivello-322, 10-Tanner Thorson-307.
HONDA USAC WESTERN MIDGET DIRT POINTS: 1-Ronnie Gardner-761, 2-Trey Marcham-653, 3-Jarid Blondel-411, 4-Alex Schutte-390, 5-Shannon McQueen-357, 6-Christopher Bell-324, 7-Tanner Thorson-306, 8-Scott Pierovich-288, 9-Sean Dodenhoff-283, 10-Rico Abreu-249.
74th Turkey Night has USAC championships on the line
Christopher Bell hungry on Turkey Night