Aaron Pierce
Aaron Pierce

Aaron Pierce
Yorktown, IN



Sprint Source


SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (November 18, 2011) – The battle for the 2011 USAC Western Sprint Car Series and USAC Western Classic Racing Series championships will come to a head on Thursday night as Audra Sasselli and Geoff Ensign try to fend off Tony Hunt for their respective titles in the prestigious “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at TOYOTA Speedway in Irwindale, Calif.

The points battles between Sasselli, Ensign, and Hunt will be just one part of the show on Thursday night as a star-studded field that could number as many as 30 cars is expected to vie for the $16,000 purse. $2,500 will be awarded to the race winner in the 40 lap under card for the USAC National & Western Midgets 98 lap feature on the half-mile pavement oval.

Hunt, the six-time USAC champion, finds himself in an unfamiliar position of trying to play catch up against two drivers trying to earn their first career USAC championships. Fresno’s Sasselli leads the title despite not winning a single feature all season in the pavement only USAC Western Sprint Car Series. Sasselli finished second in all three events at Madera Speedway and benefited from Hunt’s DNF at Shasta to pick up a 20 point advantage in the series.

On the USAC Western Classic side, Hunt leads the pavement points but Sebastopol’s Ensign leads the points by 18 markers on the strength of the 2011 USAC Western Classic Racing Series dirt championship. Ensign was the highest finishing Western Classic car in six of the eight races held, only loosing at Santa Maria and the “Mini Gold Cup” at Chico where he failed to finish both times.

Ensign’s most memorable start on pavement came against Hunt at Madera on September 17 in the “Harvest Classic” when he went toe-to-toe with the champion before finishing fourth. The USAC rookie leads Hunt by 18 points going into the Turkey Night looking for his second USAC crown of the season.

Joining them on Thursday night will be most of the USAC Western Sprint Car regulars including the Western Speed team of rookie 18 year-old Cody Gerhardt and Tim Skoglund both of Fresno. Ensign’s Ted Finkenbinder Motorsports teammate Tim Barber of San Franscisco is expected along with Fair Oaks’ Shauna Hogg, Clovis’ Luis Ramos III, Santa Rosa’s Brian McClish, Marvin Mitchell, and Bill Logan.

The USAC Rocky Mountain series will be well represented with at least Jim Waters and Ryan Burdett expected, while Meridian Speedway regulars Mike Murgoitio and Robert Beck have entered. Californians Mike Meier, Rick Hendrix, and Nick Rescino, Jr. are all expected to return to the series.

Former USAC Western Sprint Car Series standouts Kody Swanson (2010 Turkey Night winner), Tanner Swanson, and JoJo Helberg are all expected and will be joined by USAC National stars such as Tracy Hines and Aaron Pierce. 2010 King of California Kyle Larson will try to add to his record-breaking 2011 season as he will come to TOYOTA Speedway with 21 wins on the year across all disciplines of open-wheel racing in North America.

Activities get underway on Wednesday night with practice held from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. On Thanksgiving Day, activities will get underway early with the pit gate opening at 10 a.m. and the drivers meeting at 11 a.m. Practices begin at 12 p.m. followed by qualifying at 3:30 p.m., an autograph session at 5:15 p.m. on the front stretch, with racing to follow.

Ticket information at is available at www.toyotaspeedwayatirwindale.com with presale tickets available online.

More information on the USAC Western Classic Racing Series is available on Facebook at keywords “USAC Western Classic Racing Series”. The United States Auto Club is online at www.usacracing.com

Article Credit: Steven Blakesley / Blakesley Sports Media

Submitted By: Steven Blakesley

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