LASOSKI WINS, STEWART FLIPS ON OPENING NIGHT AT THE CHILI BOWL; BULL AND MICHELE MILLER LEAD ARDC ASSAULT Tulsa, OK - Danny Lasoski went two-for-three during Wednesday's Creek Nation Casino Qualifying Showdown at the Tulsa Expo Center, as the...
LASOSKI WINS, STEWART FLIPS ON OPENING NIGHT AT THE CHILI BOWL; BULL AND MICHELE MILLER LEAD ARDC ASSAULT
Tulsa, OK - Danny Lasoski went two-for-three during Wednesday's Creek Nation Casino Qualifying Showdown at the Tulsa Expo Center, as the 20th Annual O'Reilly's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals got underway. The Dover, Missouri sprint car ace captured his heat race, finished second to Tim McCreadie in the fourth A-Qualifier, then led every lap of the A-Main to lock himself into the 50-lap finale on Saturday night. The King, Steve Kinser, finished as the runner-up to Lasoski, with midget hot-shoe Jerry Coons, Jr. and McCreadie racing home third and fourth, respectively. The top four finishers from each of the three qualifying nights automatically transfer into the A-Main on Saturday.
"I come here because I love this sport," stated the former World of Outlaws sprint car champion. "And because here at the Chili Bowl, you are racing against the best of the best, not only the best midget drivers but the best from many other classes of racing."
The man who used to be Lasoski's sprint car boss, NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Tony Stewart, provided some early excitement when he flipped violently in turn three during the first lap of warm-ups on Wednesday. Stewart's Venture Racing/ Coca Cola/ Spike Chassis no. 20 sustained heavy damage, forcing him to withdraw from the evening's competition. Stewart, who quickly climbed from his crippled car, will come back and attempt to qualify for the O'Reilly's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals on Friday.
Because he earned more points than anyone else in Wednesday's 88-car field, Lasoski started on the pole in the 25-lap feature. He put his Jerry Russell Eagle/Esslinger no. 33d out front at the drop of the green, with Kinser immediately darting into second ahead of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Brady Bacon.
Lasoski planted his left-front wheel on top of the inside berm in turns three and four while riding up on the cushion in one and two. He held the top spot throughout the race, which was slowed by four yellows. Kinser ducked under the Dude on a couple of occasions, but could not pull off the pass. "Until I saw Steve's nose, I had no idea how close anyone was," noted the winner. "I only knew that I was not coming off the bottom in three and four, no matter who was back there."
In the waning laps, Kinser had to fight off a strong challenge by Coons, with McCreadie and Bacon in attack mode as well. Coons appeared to get a run on the King with two to go, but Kinser drifted up the track in turn four to squash his momentum. "I've run with Danny often enough to know that he will not give up the bottom, so I had to try the high side," explained the Bloomington, Indiana veteran. "I'm just relieved that we're running so well, and we're locked into Saturday's A-Main. Now I can go home and watch my boy's wrestling match, and then come back ready to go on Saturday.
At the checkered, it was Lasoski winning comfortably over Kinser, Coons, McCreadie, and Bacon.
ARDC Champion Ray Bull had a rough start on opening night. As his heat race was about to go green, pole-sitter Joe Zierolf spun in the fourth turn, collecting most of the field, including Bull. The result was a bent front axle on the Mega Motorsports no. 22, but the Bloomsburg, PA chauffeur was ready for the restart. A few laps later, while running third (only four cars were able to restart after the initial pile-up), Bull spun and was hit by another car. He tried to resume, but his front end collapsed, knocking the Raging Bull out of competition. He was credited with a third-place finish, however, as only two cars were able to finish the race.
Bull chased Coons to the checkers in the first A-Qualifier, putting him on the inside of row four for the A-Main. The Lausch's Moving and Storage/Lobitz Catering Stealth/Gaerte no. 22 worked the inside lane during the 25-lapper, moving to fourth before the halfway point. As the bottom groove went away, though, Bull was gobbled up by McCreadie and Bacon, and eventually settled for a ninth-place finish. "The right-rear tire sealed over, and the engine quit twice near the end of the feature," Bull stated afterward. "We don't know why the engine quit, but we'll figure it out before Saturday."
Michele Miller also qualified for Wednesday's main event, but she had to run several races in order to do so. She finished fifth in the evening's tenth and final heat race, then ran second in Last Chance Race no. 3. She was leading that one, but Kyle Rayburn slipped under her coming off the second corner on the last trip around the quarter-mile oval. Michele appeared to finish fifth in the first B-Main, one spot away from a transfer to the feature, but she was scored as the fourth and final qualifier after Greg Schaefer was put back two positions for an infraction. Miller ended her long night of racing with an 18th in the A-Main.
The heartbreak of the night belonged to Frenchtown, NJ's Billy Pauch, Jr. Making his Chili Bowl debut, Pauch finished an impressive third in his heat race. Starting seventh in the first of two B-Mains, Pauch deftly steered the Starrett Racing no. 49 into third (the top four qualified for the feature). On the final circuit, Pauch darted to the low side, trying to pass USAC standout Tony Elliott. Charging through turns three and four, they got together, with Pauch pushing Elliott's car to the top of the race track. Both cars stalled as the rest of the field zipped by them, ending their chances of making the main event.
Other ARDC drivers who competed on Wednesday were Carey Becker in the RT Racing no. 20c, and Kathy Kurtz, who was making her maiden voyage at the Chili Bowl. Becker finished eighth in his heat race, then placed sixth in Last Chance Race no. 1. Only two cars transferred out of each of the four Last Chance Races.
Kurtz was an unfortunate victim in her 10-lap heat as she was collected by the same car in two separate incidents. The second mix-up knocked her out of the event. She was forced out of Last Chance Race no. 2 by a mechanical problem, finishing ninth.