National Dirt
Wednesday, 23 November 2016


Billy Boat (third from left) and John Lawson (on right in red shirt) celebrate in victory lane after winning a USAC National Midget feature at Indiana's Terre Haute Action Track in 1997. Billy Boat (third from left) and John Lawson (on right in red shirt) celebrate in victory lane after winning a USAC National Midget feature at Indiana's Terre Haute Action Track in 1997. John Mahoney Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Billy Boat and John Lawson.  No two names are more synonymous with USAC West Coast Midget racing in the mid-1990s than these gentlemen.

You could also say that no two names struck more fear into their fellow competitors when they pulled into the pits and rolled their car off the hauler for another night of racing than these two.

Victory lane was a second home for Phoenix, Arizona’s Boat and Fresno, California’s Lawson between the years of 1993 and 1997.  It wasn’t too uncommon for fans and competitors to witness the familiar black number 15 storm to the front of the pack on its way to another victory.

Though, when the pair first won back in 1993 at Hanford, California’s Kings Speedway, the car was pearly white and the number on the tail tank read 8L.

But, soon, the team would find their number and everyone else’s number for that matter over the next handful of years.

In a limited four-race program in 1993, Boat and Lawson were victorious in three of those four starts with three fast qualifying times to go along with it.

In a full campaign in 1994, Boat and Lawson won twice in 20 starts, but came up a little short in the points race, finishing in the runner-up spot behind Johnny Cofer.

When the calendar turned its page to the 1995 season, Boat and Lawson were no longer just contenders for race wins.  The duo was absolutely dominating as they ran roughshod over the competition in an 18-win season in just 27 starts on their way to a USAC Western States Midget championship by an astounding 311 points!

During a four-month, 11-race stretch from May to September, Boat and Lawson went undefeated and, in the process, set an incredible 11-race win streak that still stands as an all-time USAC record to this day.

Soon thereafter, the two became not only local heroes, but a terror when the national guys rode into town.  Ventura, Bakersfield and Perris were practically owned by Boat and Lawson at the end of the 1995 season which started the pair’s streak of three consecutive “Turkey Night” victories in 1995, 1996 and Ventura’s last “Turkey Night” race in 1997.

As Boat and Lawson ventured out to test the National waters a bit more in 1996 and 1997, their winning ways never wavered.  It didn’t make a difference if it was the “Copper World Classic” on the one-mile pavement at Phoenix International Raceway, the flat half-mile dirt fairgrounds oval at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, the high-banked circle that is the Belleville (Kans.) High Banks or the converted baseball field at 16th Speedway in Indianapolis.

Boat and Lawson won at all of them.

All but one of Billy’s 41 career USAC Western States Midget victories came behind the wheel of a John Lawson-owned machine.  Therefore, it is only fitting that on Thursday, November, 24, 2016, these two legends of racing are honored together as grand marshals of the 76th running of the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.

The 2016 “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ventura Raceway begins Wednesday, Nov. 23 with USAC Midget practice.  On Thursday, Nov. 24, the Midgets will qualify, then run preliminary events leading into the night’s 76th edition of the 98-lap feature.

In addition to the Midgets, the USAC West Coast Sprint Cars will be competing on both Wednesday and Thursday.  On Wednesday, the Sprint Cars will qualify, race heats and a 25-lap feature event.  On Thursday, the Sprint Cars will return with semi-feature events and 30-lap feature.

Both Wednesday and Thursday night, the pit gates will open at noon, with the drivers meeting at 2:45pm.  Cars are set to be on track at 3:30pm with racing scheduled for 5:30pm.

There will be an autograph session at the track during intermission on Wednesday night.

Advance tickets for the 76th “Turkey Night Grand Prix” are available by calling 805-648-7223.

If you can’t make it to Ventura Raceway to see “Turkey Night” in person, you can catch flag-to-flag coverage of all the racing action on both Wednesday and Thursday night on!  There is a 100-mile broadcast blackout surrounding Ventura Raceway.