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VENTURA THANKSGIVING MIDGET GP - Part V

VENTURA THANKSGIVING MIDGET GP - Part V
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Photo: Albert Wong  Kyle Larson (No. 1k) passes to the inside of spinning Emerson Axsom (No.15) as Thomas Meseraull (No. 7x) passes on the outside early in the 98-lap USAC National Midget 98-lap feature at turn three of Ventura Raceway.  Three-time Thanksgiving Midget champion Larson finished fourth.
 
LOS ANGELES – DRIVER INFO: I compiled information about the racing experience and goals of many of the upcoming USAC midget drivers competing this year. I spent hours in the pits at Ventura Raceway during the November 26-27 practice and race days for the 80th Thanksgiving Midget Grand Prix. I spoke to drivers between their trips to the fifth-mile clay track to practice. Information from those conversations follows.
 
KAYLEE BRYSON, 20, is in the Toyota Racing driver development program that guided USAC open-wheel driver Christopher Bell into NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series successful driver contracts. She told me NASCAR racing is her goal. The Oklahoma native started racing winged karts at age 9 and had 50 wins from 2010-12. She moved to micro sprints (restrictor class) and won three important victories in 2015, including the Tulsa Shootout. In 2016 she won the Port City Raceway (Okla.) rookie of the year and A-class micro sprint championship.
 
Kaylee transitioned to her full-time Keith Kunz Motorsports midget ride on the USAC and POWRi circuits. She finished 16th in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget points. On her first visit to Ventura she set the fastest qualifying time, just short of the 1995 track record, in a 50-car field. She started first, led 17 laps and finished fifth (second highest rookie) after 98 laps. Her finish on the lead lap is the highest finish in 80 TNGP mains by a female driver. To expand her racing experience on paved tracks, she also raced the # 8 Pro Late Model for Racing Dynamics and won her first start on pavement. Her racing plans for 2022 had not been set, but she is entered again in the January 2022 Chili Bowl in the # 71k.
 
TAYLOR REIMER, 21, is a Keith Kunz team full-time driver in 2021. The blonde Oklahoman set the second fastest qualifying time on November 27 on her first visit to Ventura. She started second next to KKM teammate Bryson and finished a strong eighth in the GP. That was third best among the 11 TNGP rookies in the 28 driver field. A week earlier, she set the fastest qualifying time in a 47 car field on her first visit to the Placerville, Calif. quarter-mile. She finished 21st in final USAC National Midget points. She wasn't sure about her racing goal. However, she will be back with KKM in the # 25k BuzzBalls Cocktails, LLC midget for a full season in USAC and POWRi.
 
BRYANT WIEDEMAN, 16, is from Colby, Kansas and drove the KKM # 01 full-time in 2021. He finished 12th in 2021 USAC National Midget points. He said he started racing go-karts and his racing goal is NASCAR or World of outlaw sprint cars. He is returning to the KKM team in 2022.
 
BRENHAM CROUCH, 16, is from Lubbock, Texas. He drove the KKM # 97 in 2021 and finished 13th in final point standings. He said his racing goal is to follow past KKM drivers Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell into NASCAR driver ranks. He will return to KKM where he and teammate Wiedeman will be Chili Bowl rookies.
 
HAYDEN REINBOLD, 17, is a 5' 11” USAC midget rookie from Gilbert, Arizona. He is the son of former sprint car driver Andy Reinbold, his 6' 7” car owner. He said he is not sure what his racing goal is at this time. He will race in the 2022 Chili Bowl for his dad.
 
CHANCE CRUM, 24, is from Snohomish, Wash., and races primarily at Deming and Skagit Speedways. The personable driver also races super-modifieds and drove one of two blue and white # 26 Rudeen Racing midgets in his first trip to Ventura. His teammate CORY ELIASON, 30, from Visalia,Calif., is a winged 410 sprint car veteran. He won All-Star Sprint mains in the blue and white # 26 Rudeen sprinter and finished second in 2021 All-Star points. Eliason said his sprint car owner Rudeen, one of three new owners at Skagit Speedway, wanted him to race in the TNGP despite his lack of time in midgets. Both Rudeen midget rookies made the 98-lap feature.
 
MITCHEL MOLES, 21, is a real comer in open-wheel racing. At Ventura he qualified fourth fastest, started fourth and finished third to win the Don Basile Rookie of the Race $500. He won a USAC Western midget feature at Hanford last April. The 6' 2” driver from Raisin City, Calif. (near Fresno) primarily has raced sprint cars at central California tracks in Hanford, Merced and Tulare. His father Larry owns a 1,000 acre raisin farm and sponsors his racing. He perfected his racing skills driving 600cc mini sprints at Lemoore and Visalia. He won one of the 600cc winged outlaw class features at the last Tulsa Shootout at the home of the Tulsa Chili Bowl. He will be racing the # 07w midget for Matt Wood's Elk Grove Ford-backed multi-car team in the 2022 Chili Bowl. He said he would like to race 410 winged sprint cars with the World of Outlaws eventually.
 
CANNON McINTOSH, 18, is another Oklahoman and son of midget car owner Dave McIntosh. He led the most laps in the 2019 TNGP on his first visit to Ventura. He said Indianapolis 500 three-time top ten finisher Santino Ferrucci raced one of the McIntosh Spike/Toyota midgets both nights at Merced a few days before the TNGP. However, he only had sponsorship from Webco Industries for the Merced races to get ready for a similar size track at the 2022 Chili Bowl. He will drive a Dave Mac Webco # 16 in the Chili Bowl. Cannon and his brother will be teammates. .
 
CHASE RANDALL, from Waco, Texas, finished 11th in 2021 USAC points and won the rookie of the year title. He raced a # 19a Reinbold-Underwood midget (his upcoming Chili Bowl ride). He brought his own # 9 Eagle/Fisher 360 sprint car to Ventura and competed in both divisions. The personable driver said his racing goal is World of Outlaws winged 410 sprint car competition.
 
All of the midget rookies I spoke to enjoyed racing in November on the four California speedways—Bakersfield, Placerville, Merced and Ventura. They will get to revisit those same four tracks in November, 2022 because USAC has announced its schedules and the same four tracks will see USAC National Midget Series racing. It may be called the California midget weeks just as Indiana has its annual USAC Indiana midget weeks during June.
 
Keith Kunz entered 15 midgets in the January 10-15 Chili Bowl. In addition to the # 01, 25k, 71k and 97 drivers mentioned above, he entered rookies Gavan Boschele (5g), Jonathan Shafer (67k), Steven Snyder, Jr. (71) and Mariah Ede (71e). KKN veterans on the powerful team are: England's Tom Harris (1 UK), Tucker Klaasmeyer (27k), Buddy Kofoid (67), Christopher Bell (71w), Rico Abreu (97), Jesse Love (97x) and Tanner Carrick (98). KKM rival Chad Boat entered seven midgets—all with numbers in the 80s.