VENTURA, Calif. — Though last week’s USAC National Midget Series finale at Ventura Raceway didn’t exactly go according to plan for Spencer Bayston, the ultimate goal was still more than accomplished for both he and Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
All Bayston had to do was sign in for the 77th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix to claim his first series title, with the 10 appearance points he earned by doing so putting him out of second-placed Brady Bacon’s reach, but Bayston wanted to cap his season off with a third crown jewel victory.
He had already tasted the winner’s spoils at the Belleville Midget Nationals and Eldora Speedway’s 4-Crown Nationals, but a Turkey Night Grand Prix victory wasn’t to be in the 19-year-old’s breakout campaign.
Bayston fell out of the race under caution with four laps to go in the 98-lap main event, finishing 16th after his car fell out of gear and would not continue.
But irregardless of the number — Bayston’s second-worst finish of the season and only his second DNF, aside from a nasty flip at Path Valley Speedway Park in August that left him 19th — the championship was secure.
That meant that it was ‘mission accomplished’ for the Lebanon, Indiana native.
“Winning the championship was what mattered at the end of the day,” said Bayston. “This wasn’t the Turkey Night we wanted, but we’ve worked so hard all year long so this is a proud moment for us as a team. We had one DNF (aside from Ventura) all season long and that wasn’t really our fault, so that’s a huge accomplishment.”
“I just somehow got out of gear and couldn’t get the car to go back in gear. I must have bumped it or something. Hats off to the entire Keith Kunz team, though. I got to enjoy the last few laps of the season (from the infield) and watch two incredible race car drivers go at it for the victory, which was pretty cool.”
Bayston concluded his first USAC championship campaign with three wins, but the story of his season was his unparalleled consistency.
In addition to his trio of victories, Bayston and the No. 97 Bullet-Toyota finished second six times, all part of a stellar resume that included 15 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in the season’s 23 races.
A pair of runner-up finishes in July to teammate Christopher Bell gave him the points lead, and Bayston never gave it up again down the stretch.
“It’s been an amazing year. I’ve always wanted to be at the top of this sport … it’s been a dream since I was a little kid, so to finally reach this point is more than I can put into words,” admitted Bayston. “Thanks to USAC, Keith (Kunz), Pete (Willoughby) and everyone on this team that helps put together winning race cars. It’s one big family and I’m happy to be a part of it and deliver them a championship this year.”
Bayston added that after missing out on winning the title a season ago, when he finished second to teammate Tanner Thorson, it was a relief and a privilege to come into the final race of the season with a virtual lock on the big prize.
“To finally have the big trophy is extremely rewarding, for sure,” Bayston said. “Years down the road, we’ll still remember what we did tonight and look back with a smile. I’ll be celebrating this one for a little bit before we get ready to start back at Chili Bowl and try again.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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