Chili Bowl Friday qualifying report

The Kruser Conquers in Red Hot Friday Chili Bowl Prelim TULSA, Okla. (January 13, 2006) -- Two-time Chili Bowl king Cory Kruseman outlasted P.J. Jones and a host of other challengers in Friday night's hotly-contested 25-lap Warren...

The Kruser Conquers in Red Hot Friday Chili Bowl Prelim

TULSA, Okla. (January 13, 2006) -- Two-time Chili Bowl king Cory Kruseman outlasted P.J. Jones and a host of other challengers in Friday night's hotly-contested 25-lap Warren CAT Qualifying night feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway's 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

In a torrid feature event that included six official lead changes and numerous others from one corner to another, Kruseman took command for keeps on the 21st round and fought back the advances of Jones, Kasey Kahne, Sammy Swindell and Mike Goodman before a crowd of 13,622.

The top-finishing quartet of Kruseman, Jones, Kahne and Swindell locked themselves into Saturday night's prestigious finale along with Wednesday and Thursday's top four finishers, which include Danny Lasoski, Jay Drake, Steve Kinser, Jon Stanbrough, Jerry Coons, Jr., Garrett Hansen, Tim McCreadie and Steve Buckwalter. The balance of the 24-car main event will be determined through Saturday's Chili Bowl championship feature events, which get under way at 1:00 p.m.

While Friday night's feature was loaded with talent, it didn't include NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart. Stewart, who scratched from Wednesday's card after a flip in hot laps, flipped wildly down the backstretch in his Friday night qualifying race after a heat race win. Shaken, the 2002 Chili Bowl winner was transported to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

For the second night in a row, an Andy Bondio-owned entry raced its way to the pole position of the feature event, with Kruseman earning the spot by virtue of an eighth to first charge in his heat race and a sixth-to-second run in his qualifier.

Racing wheel-to-wheel through the first two corners at the drop of the green, Kruseman wrestled the early lead away from fellow front row starter Jones. But, setting what would become a trend for the balance of the race, Jones raced underneath Kruseman down the backstretch on the second lap to take command.

"He (Jones) was definitely strong, there were times that he was the better car and it just kind of made a difference on who hit the right spot in the corner," Kruseman later commented.

With Jones fending off Kruseman for the point, fifth-starter Mike Goodman disposed of second row starters Paul McMahan and Dave Darland for third by the fifth round. The first of several cautions flew moments later for Brad Loyet's turn four spin, with Darland surrendering fourth position under the caution period due to a flat left rear tire. Darland rejoined the chase after a quick tire change. McMahan reported to the work area as well, also rejoining the field at the tail.

After wading through a pair of cautions, the battle for the lead intensified with Kruseman racing past Jones on the 11th circuit. Jones slid back underneath Kruseman in turns one and two on the 12th lap, only to have the move negated by a Travis Berryhill spin.

Not to be denied, Jones once again raced underneath Kruseman to snare the point on the restart. That lead was short-lived however, as Kruseman returned the favor the next time around, with Jimmy Sills' wild turn two flip bringing out the caution with 13 laps in the books.

On the ensuing restart, third-running Goodman charged by both Kruseman and Jones in turns one and two and led the way down the backstretch before slipping over the cushion in three and four. Goodman's slip allowed Jones to race into the lead on the 14th lap with Kruseman in second.

According to Kruseman, "The best thing for us was that the top was getting better and the bottom was getting worse, at least in my eyes, and it kinda was slowing P.J. up a little bit. But every time a yellow would come he'd track back by me, so obviously it wasn't so true. "With Jones, Kruseman and Goodman engaged in a spirited battle for the lead, 14th-starter Kahne and 15th-starter Sammy Swindell had quietly climbed into the top five by the time a caution flew after 17 laps for a tangle involving Casey Shuman and Wally Pankratz.

The lead quintet of Jones, Kruseman, Kahne, Swindell and Goodman raced in tight formation over the next handful of laps, swapping spots continuously much to the approval of the capacity crowd.

Kruseman finally charged into the lead for good upon the completion of the 21st lap, and after a final caution that set up a two-lap dash to the checkered flag, beat Jones to the stripe by two car-lengths. In search of a third Golden Driller trophy, it marked Kruseman's fifth Chili Bowl preliminary night triumph aboard Andy Bondio's Barnes-powered No. 47 Barnes Oil Pumps/Kenny's Components entry.

Jones settled for runner-up honors aboard Mike Minarik's Chevy-powered No. 17J K&C Drywall TCR. Jones commented, "I'm rusty in the dirt racing, I've run one dirt race a year the last ten years and that's been here. I'm probably not as sharp and on my game as somebody like Cory or Sammy, but it comes back to you fast."

On Jones' rear bumper, NASCAR star Kahne edged four-time Chili Bowl champion Swindell for the show position.

Kahne commented that, "This is just a fun, exciting race to come to every year and I've got to come until I win the thing."

According to Chili Bowl veteran Swindell, "I've been fortunate to finish a lot of races here and run up front a lot of times. I think there was a point here tonight where I was second, for maybe a second or two, then I kinda got a bad bounce there a time or two. That's part of it, we were just trying to get what we could get and we came a long ways from where ever I started."

Chili Bowl rookie contender Goodman rounded out the top five, with 19th-starter Bryan Clauson overcoming several miscues earlier in the night by charging to sixth. Teddy Beach snared seventh in front of 18th-starter Shane Cottle and Rich Camfield, with two-time Chili Bowl champion Dan Boorse charging from 21st to tenth.

Jones, Pankratz, Alan Ballard, Kruseman, Swindell, Daniel Adler, Tony Stewart, Goodman, Joe Boyles and Berryhill captured heat race victories for Friday night's 89-car field.

Davey Camfield, Matt Sherrell, Shuman and Damion Gardner posted Last Chance Race wins, with Darland, Josh Wise, Goodman and Beach topping the Qualifying races.

Loyet and Cottle split victory honors in the twin B Mains.

Sherrell's late move to win his Last Chance race aboard perhaps the oldest vehicle among this year's record 260 competitors earned a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. Sherrell's Jack Hitt-owned mount is the same car in which Danny Frye, Jr., captured a preliminary feature win in Second Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals of 1988.

-lw-

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Steve Kinser , Dave Darland , P.J. Jones , Sammy Swindell , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Teddy Beach , Jerry Coons , Josh Wise , Jon Stanbrough , Wally Pankratz , Paul McMahan , Shane Cottle , Jimmy Sills , Bryan Clauson , Damion Gardner , Tim McCreadie , Brad Loyet , Joe Boyles , Daniel Adler , Rich Camfield , Travis Berryhill , Garrett Hansen , Matt Sherrell , Casey Shuman