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Table Is Set for Scully : Motor racing: Midget rookie award on line for ‘Encino Man’ in ‘Turkey Night’ race at Bakersfield.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Shane Scully’s Thanksgiving will be traditional with one exception. Instead of taking his usual place as a spectator Thursday night, he will be a participant in the 55th “Turkey Night” races at Bakersfield Speedway.

Scully, 23, from Encino, is in a close race for rookie-of-the-year honors in the United States Auto Club Western Regional Midget racing series.

“Ever since I can remember, our family has come to Bakersfield to watch the Turkey Races,” Scully said. “It’s quite a thrill to be actually competing this season.”

The field includes top Midget drivers from across the nation, including Tony Stewart the defending USAC national champion from Rushville, Ind., and Billy Boat of Phoenix, who earlier this year won a USAC-record 11 consecutive races.

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But the most fierce competition might be between rookies Scully and Jeremey Sherman, who are neck and neck in the points standings.

Scully holds a six-point lead over his rival, who recently gained ground by competing in the main event at Ventura Raceway.

The Ventura race, a prelude to the Bakersfield event, marked a frustrating night for Scully.

A cut tire during prelims sidelined him for the evening. As Scully anxiously watched from the stands, Sherman flipped his car in the main event and was eliminated.

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“I’m still happy to have the lead heading into Thursday,” Scully said. “I was running well in the race at Ventura, I just got tangled up with another driver.”

Scully, who has been driving Midgets for three years, comes from a family with strong ties to racing. His grandfather, Louis Senter, sold racing parts through the mail.

His mother, Marsha, in the late 1950s raced against the likes of Johnny Parsons and the legendary Pancho Carter at tracks in Los Angeles.

Even so, Scully’s parents resisted when he told them he wanted to start his own racing career.

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“We told him, ‘No you’re not,’ ” Rod Scully, his father, said.

Later, they recanted. Rod has invested almost $25,000 in his son’s car.

“Throughout high school, the stickball sports never interested me,” Scully said. “I was into racing.”

Scully, an Arizona State graduate, during college hung around the tracks around Phoenix to help satisfy his craving for racing.

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From the beginning he has taken some ribbing from fellow racers about his hometown.

A public-address announcer in Calistoga, Calif., dubbed him “Encino Man"--a nickname that other announcers have adopted.

Although Scully has not won a feature race, he has been knocking on the door. Several drivers have praised his efforts on asphalt.

“Pavement seems to be his strong suit,” Boat said. “He had a fast time at Altamont and I think he could have won there because he had the fastest car. He just got a little impatient, but a lot of people do when they first start.”

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Scully is excited about his chances in Bakersfield.

“You know anybody that’s anything in Midget racing has won at Bakersfield,” he said. “This is a race with a lot of tradition. It would be a perfect opportunity to make a name for myself.”


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