Christopher Bell took the lead just past the midway point and never relinquished the top spot on the way to winning the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.
The victory is Bell’s first at the Chili Bowl and the third in a row for a Toyota-powered car at the biggest event in midget car racing. The previous two years were won by Bell’s Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate, Rico Abreu.
The victory comes in the fourth straight A Main appearance for the Norman, Okla., native after previously running a career-best third in 2014. He also won Thursday night’s preliminary feature. This victory now gives Bell 36 career national midget victories.
Bell’s “day job” is a full-time gig in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“The difference between this year and years past was it’s always been attack, attack and attack – and it didn’t need to be that way,” said Bell, who was a finalist in the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a KBM Toyota Tundra. “This year we ran hard enough to stay in position, but stay out of trouble. I ran behind Justin (Grant) early and I just waited for the right time and once I was able to squeak by him on the straight-away, I just tried to run clean.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I really love this race. It’s my favorite week of the year. It’s cool to finally bring a driller back to Oklahoma (first Oklahoma winner in 23 years). Now I need to get a (NASCAR) win at Daytona! This is all a dream come true (Chili Bowl and NASCAR) and I’m really thankful that Toyota took the chance.”
Bell was joined in the top five by teammate Tanner Thorson, who placed fourth after starting from the 20th position. Thorson drove his way into the A Main after starting in the C after he was hit from behind in Friday’s feature race.
“In the beginning of the night I was just wanting to take the provisional and go directly to the A Main and not have to worry about getting in a wreck,” relayed Thorson, the reigning USAC national champion. “But (team owner) Keith (Kunz) said ‘if we wreck it, we’ll fix”. So we gave it our all out there. Once we cleared our ground in the C, the car got better and better and better. I think we had one of the fastest cars there in the A Main. It was great.”
|1||2||Christopher Bell||Norman, OK|
|2||8||Daryn Pittman||Owosso, OK|
|3||1||Justin Grant||Ione, CA|
|4||20||Tanner Thorson||Minden, NV|
|5||5||Jake Swanson||Anaheim, CA|
|6||3||Tyler Courtney||Indianapolis, IN|
|7||11||Zach Daum||Pocahontas, IL|
|8||15||Jerry Coons Jr||Tucson, AZ|
|9||9||Ronnie Gardner||Corona, CA|
|10||16||Damion Gardner||Concord, CA|
|11||25||Rico Abreu||Rutherford, CA|
|12||4||Travis Berryhill||American Canyon, CA|
|13||7||Larry Wight||Phoenix, NY|
|14||10||C.J. Leary||Greenfield, IN|
|15||13||Shane Golobic||Fremont, CA|
|16||14||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Olive Branch, MS|
|17||18||Tyler Thomas||Collinsville, OK|
|18||23||Michael Faccinto||Hanford, CA|
|19||12||Colby Copeland||Roseville, CA|
|20 (DNF)||19||Jonathan Beason||Broken Arrow, OK|
|21 (DNF)||6||Danny Stratton||Riverside, CA|
|22 (DNF)||22||Chase Briscoe||Mitchell, IN|
|23 (DNF)||21||Thomas Meseraull||San Jose, CA|
|24 (DNF)||24||Justin Peck||Monrovia, IN|
|25 (DNF)||17||Gary Taylor||Snohomish, WA|
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!