Turkey Night Gets Best of the Best

Times Staff Writer

Steve Lewis' hobby is finding young race car drivers to put in his stable of midget race cars.

His goals with them are twofold: Win the U.S. Auto Club national championship and win the Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix.

The Laguna Beach entrepreneur has been successful in both ventures. Eight times his cars have won the USAC championship -- Stevie Reeves in 1993; Tony Stewart, 1995; Kenny Irwin Jr., 1996; Jason Leffler, 1998-99; Kasey Kahne, 2000; Dave Darland, 2002; and J.J. Yeley, who clinched this year's title with a third-place finish last Saturday night at Tucson.

Four times Lewis' No. 9 midget has finished first on Thanksgiving night. Stan Fox won the final race at Ascot Park in 1990 and the following year at Saugus. Leffler and Stewart won back-to-back races in 1999 and 2000 at Irwindale Speedway.

For tonight's 63rd annual 100-lap race around Irwindale's half-mile oval, Yeley and Bobby East, son of chassis builder and former midget racer Bob East, will be in Lewis' No. 9 and No. 91 cars.

The elder East finished second to Ron Shuman in the 1980 Turkey Night race at Ascot. Young East was fourth last year behind Michael Lewis, Kasey Kahne and Dave Steele.

Michael Lewis, of Noblesville, Ind., who won last year's race driving for A.J. Foyt, will return in a Western Speed Racing midget. Tracy Hines, of New Castle, Ind., runner-up to Yeley for the series title, won the Tucson race and will be hoping to improve on his third-place finish at Irwindale in 2000.

Shuman, an eight-time Thanksgiving night winner, will be one of a number of former champions on hand to help dedicate the J.C. Agajanian Trophy -- a bronzed Stetson hat worn by the long-time Turkey Night promoter who died in 1984. Four will be in the race -- Jay Drake, 1998; Leffler, 1999; Dave Steele, 2001; and Michael Lewis.

Tonight's midget race will be televised live for the first time, at 8 on Speed Channel.

Also on the program will be a 40-lap USAC Western sprint car race and a 20-lap USAC California Ford Focus midget car race.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday December 02, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction Auto racing -- In a Sports article Thursday, it was incorrectly reported that A. J. Foyt was the owner of the car Michael Lewis drove in winning the 2002 Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix. The owner is Philip Reed of Whittier. Foyt was a sponsor.
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