Chili Bowl Nationals Friday report

Gardner Digs Friday's O'Reilly Qualifier at the Chili Bowl TULSA, Okla. (January 11, 2008) -- Just when it looked as though Jason Leffler was going to win Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts Qualifying event at Tulsa Expo Raceway's Dodge Chili ...

Gardner Digs Friday's O'Reilly Qualifier at the Chili Bowl

TULSA, Okla. (January 11, 2008) -- Just when it looked as though Jason Leffler was going to win Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts Qualifying event at Tulsa Expo Raceway's Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals, his hired gun foiled the NASCAR Nationwide Series' victory plans.

California native Damion Gardner, piloting Leffler's Pace Electronics/Team ASE No. 71g, made the top side of the 0x00bc-mile clay oval inside the QuikTrip Center work over the latter stages of the 25-lap feature and swept into the lead on the 22nd lap to snare the win.

"I thought if something was there up top I was gonna go up there late," Gardner commented afterward. "I was pretty sure in one and two but I wasn't sure about three and four, I could get around there pretty good and I just decided I was going to give it a whirl."

Leffler explained how Gardner landed in his Midget, "That car was just sitting in my garage, sitting up on jack stands and I felt bad it's such a nice car. So I called Damion and said, 'Hey, why don't you come get this thing and either bring it back with a trophy or in a bucket'. He got a trophy, so it's good."

Working his way from deep in the field, USAC ace Dave Darland slipped around Leffler on the final round to take second, with Leffler settling for the show position.

NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne batted past Ron Shuman on the 24th circuit to take the fourth and final lock-in position to Saturday night's 50-lap Chili Bowl championship main event.

Gardner, Darland, Leffler and Kahne join Wednesday night's top four (Josh Ford, Aaron Fiscus, Jerry Coons, Jr., and Bryan Clauson) and Thursday's top four (Brad Kuhn, Jon Stanbrough, Shane Cottle and Cole Whitt) as the dozen drivers locked into Saturday night's main event, which will be televised live on HBO Pay-Per-View. The balance of the record 274 competitors will battle it out for the remaining dozen starting positions through Saturday's Bass Pro Shops slate of Chili Bowl championship feature events, which get under way at 1:00 p.m.

Starting from the pole position, Leffler outgunned Gardner for the lead at the drop of the green flag, with third-starter Cory Kruseman quickly taking over second. Kruseman, a two-time Chili Bowl champion, slipped underneath Leffler in turns one and two on the third lap and paced the field much of the way.

With most of the field working the low portion of the track, 14th-starter Darland was the first to try out the top side. And Darland's experimentation began to pay dividends following a lap 14 caution for Australia's Mark Brown, who slid to a stop in turn two while running fifth.

With Kruseman leading Leffler, Don Droud, Jr., and Gardner, Darland needed just two laps to climb from eighth to fifth and into the lead mix. Darland briefly surged ahead of Gardner upon the completion of the 18th lap, but Gardner quickly changed his line and used the top to reclaim fourth.

Meanwhile, Kruseman's bid for a sixth career Chili Bowl preliminary feature win began to unravel. Leffler raced back into the lead exiting turn two on the 19th lap, then Kruseman spun a half lap later after brushing wheels with the charging Gardner, collecting Droud in the melee.

Set for a six-lap charge to the checkered flag, Leffler fought off Gardner for several rounds before "The Demon's" top side tenacity paid off with the winning move on the 22nd lap.

Up to third on the final restart, Darland made his way past Leffler on the last lap to take runner-up honors in Steve Lewis' Ed Pink Toyota-powered Team ASE/Performance Racing Industry No. 9x Spike, qualifying for his ninth consecutive Chili Bowl main event.

About taking to the top of the track, Darland explained that, "We had the car set up to run up top if we had to, I just had to go up there and see what was up there. Just running around there in eighth or ninth I wasn't going to lose much by going up there and trying it, so I decided to take a chance and it worked pretty good."

Leffler was third in the Toyota-powered Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 71k Bullet, becoming the third Kunz entry to lock into Saturday night's main event.

"I could hear him out there, I knew he (Gardner) was running second on that last yellow," Leffler explained. "Where I was at, it'll take you a lap-and-a-half or two laps to figure the top out and by then you'd get slid three or four times so I knew if I hit my marks there I'd probably lose the race but I'd at least get into the "A" Feature. I hate getting beat and I hate really getting beat on the top, but you do what you have to do."

The battle for the fourth and final lock-in position was a wild one over the final rounds, with Ron Shuman coming off a ten-year retirement and holding the position until Kahne soared by with the white flag in sight. Kahne held on to claim fourth in the Mopar-powered Kasey Kahne Racing Budweiser No. 91 Spike.

"I was sliding around so much, I wasn't going anywhere on the bottom so once Darland got by me I tried it (the high groove) for a little bit then I missed it and got passed again," Kahne explained. "Just at the end it worked out and we got a few cars there to get into the race."

Charging from 15th, Kevin Swindell rounded out the top five, with Billy Wease and Bubba Altig next across the line as Shuman slipped back to eighth. After winning his "B" Main, 15-year-old Trey Robb raced from 18th to ninth, with Steve Buckwalter completing the top ten.

Tracy Hines, the 2005 Chili Bowl champion, finished just outside the top ten in eleventh.

After advancing from Tuesday night's Pre-Qualifying event, 15-year-old Caleb Armstrong was the only rookie to make the cut for Friday night's feature field and finished 19th.

Battling among the top five in the early stages, Darren Hagen flipped in turn two on lap six to become the race's first casualty.

Austin Mero, Mark Brown, Buckwalter, Darland, Dex Eaton, Kruseman, Leffler, Greg Bragg and Jeff Bland, Jr., topped heat race action for Friday night's 66-car field.

Kevin Morris, Darren Stewart, Kevin Swindell and Jason Holt each won Last Chance Races, with Droud, Gardner, Shuman and Hagen victorious in the Qualifying Races.

Hines and Robb topped the twin "B" Mains.

Late Model ace Josh Richards went for a wild ride turn four on the opening lap of the second heat race, but was able to return for later action. Other heat race flippers included Anthony Peterman, Kyle Rayburn, Andy Martin and Holt, with Hunter Schuerenberg taking a wild tumble down the frontstretch on the opening lap of the first Last Chance Race. Wayne Johnson got upside down in that melee as well.

Rich Camfield and Caleb Armstrong flipped in Qualifying Race action, with Johnathon Henry getting upside down in a "B" Main.

There were no injuries.

Saturday's slate of Bass Pro Shops championship feature events consists of 21 events, with the first of two "K" Mains set to go green at 1:00 p.m.

Friday Night's O'Reilly Auto Parts Qualifying Event Results from the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Midget Nationals

Heat Races (Top 40 in passing points to four A Qualifiers; Balance to four Last Chance races)

Heat 1: 1. #25M Austin Mero, Kingsburg, CA; 2. #7B Joe Boyles, Greenwood, MO; 3. #15X Sam Hafertepe Jr., Sunnyvale, TX; 4. #34 Bob Ream Jr., Glendale, AZ; 5. #11S Steve Newman, Steamboat, CO; 6. #13 Jason Dull; 7. #11Z Travis Berryhill, American Canyon, CA; 8. #54 Ryan Smith, Kunkletown, PA

Heat 2: 1. #71B Mark Brown, Glendenning, NSW; 2. #67A Gary Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 3. #12W Billy Wease, Noblesville, IN; 4. #7P Anthony Peterman, Crawfordsville, IN; 5. #05J P.J. Jones, Torrance, CA; 6. #64 Brett Miller, Chico, CA; 7. #39 Kevin Swindell, Germantown, TN; 8. #20R Josh Richards, Shinnston, WV

Heat 3: 1. #25 Steve Buckwalter, Royersford, PA; 2. #37T Ron Shuman, Tempe, AZ; 3. #21A Danny Stratton, Indianapolis, IN; 4. #D33 Jeff Davis, Pittsburg, IL; 5. #21 Tracy Hines, Newcastle, IN; 6. #3 Tracy Miller, Birdsboro, PA; 7. #112 Brent Beauchamp, Fairland, IN; 8. #87C Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL

Heat 4: 1. #9X Dave Darland, Walton, IN; 2. #97K Caleb Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 3. #15 Tim Siner, Waterloo, IL; 4. #88 Johnathon Henry, Linden, CA; 5. 399K Kyle Rayburn, Pueblo, CO; 6. #23W Scott Winters, Butterfield, MN; 7. #2G Terry Goodwin, Phoenix, AZ

Heat 5: 1. #59 Dex Eaton, Owasso, OK; 2. #55K Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 3. #91 Kasey Kahne, Enumclaw, WA; 4. #39T Jason Meyers, Clovis, CA; 5. #7X Darren Stewart, Bixby, OK; 6. #9M Doug McCune, Fort Worth, TX; 7. #21M Andy Martin, New Holland, PA

Heat 6: 1. #47 Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 2. #71G Damion Gardner, Pittsboro, IN; 3. #71D Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE; 4. #15N David Prickett, Fresno, CA; 5. #10M Mason Moore, Princeton, CA; 6. #5A Bill Allen, Independence, MO; 7. #14T Tony Rossi, Brighton, CO

Heat 7: 1. #71K Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA; 2. #7D Dakoda Armstrong, Newcastle, IN; 3. #12 Trey Robb, Newcastle, OK; 4. #50 Daniel Adler, East Carondolet, IL; 5. #8J Jason Holt, Brownsburg, IN; 6. #1H Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO; 7. #19W Mike Spencer, Temecula, CA

Heat 8: 1. #05B Gregg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 2. #8 Randi Pankratz, Atascadero, CA; 3. #27 Randy Monroe Jr., Hampton, VA; 4. #11W Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA; 5. #17K Kenny Morris, Ripon, CA; 6. #0B Glenn Styres, Ohsweken, ONT; 7. #F5 Wayne Johnson, Oklahoma City, OK

Heat 9: 1. #43 Jeff Bland Jr., Springville, IN; 2. #67K Travis Rilat, Forney, TX; 3. #32 Darren Hagan, Riverside, CA; 4. #27D Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA; 5. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Indianapolis, IN; 6. #73I Blake Fitzpatrick, West Terre haute, IN; 7. #6C Josh Most, Red Oak, IA

Last Chance Races (Top 2 in each transfer to back of corresponding A Qualifier)

Last Chance 1: 1. #17K Kevin Morris, Ripon, CA; 2. #20R Josh Richards, Shinnston, WV; 3. #0B Glenn Styres, Ohsweken, ONT; 4. #19W Mike Spencer, Temecula, CA; 5. #3 Tracy Miller, Birdsboro, PA; 6. #112 Brent Beauchamp, Fairland, IN. DNS: #99k Kyle Rayburn, Pueblo, CO

Last Chance 2: 1. #7X Darren Stewart, Bixby, OK; 2. #87C Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL; 3. #23W Scott Winters, Butterfield, MN; 4. #73I Blake Fitzpatrick, West Terre Haute, IN; 5. #2G Terry Goodwin, Phoenix, AZ; 6. #1H Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO; 7. #F5 Wayne Johnson, Oklahoma City, OK

Last Chance 3: 1. #39 Kevin Swindell, Germantown, TN; 2. #10M Mason Moore, Princeton, CA; 3. #9M Doug McCune, Fort Worth, TX; 4. #13 Jason Dull, Mattoon, IL; 5. #21M Andy Martin, New Holland, PA; 6. #6C Josh Most, Red Oak, IA

Last Chance 4: 1. #8J Jason Holt, Brownsburg, IN; 2. #14T Tony Rossi, Brighton, CO; 3. #5A Bill Allen, Independence, MO; 4. #54 Ryan Smith, Kunkletown, PA DNS - #11Z Travis Berryhill, American Canyon, CA; 64 Brett Miller, Chico, CA

A Qualifiers (Top 16 in combined passing points to A Main; Balance to twin B Mains)

A Qualifier 1: 1. #71D Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE; 2. #71K Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA; 3. #7B Joe Boyles, Greenwood, MO; 4. #25 Steve Buckwalter, Royersford, PA; 5. #25M Austin Mero, Kingsburg, CA; 6. #11W Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA; 7. #27 Randy Monroe Jr., Hampton, VA; 8. #7P Anthony Peterman, Crawfordsville, IN; 9. #55K Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 10. #27D Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA; 11. #17K Kevin Morris, Ripon, CA; 12. #20R Josh Richards, Shinnston, WV

A Qualifier 2: 1. #71G Damion Gardner, Pittsboro, IN; 2. #67A Gary Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 3. #12W Billy Wease, Noblesville, IN; 4. #67X Travis Rilat, Forney, TX; 5. #21 Tracy Hines, New Castle, IN; 6. #34 Bob Ream Jr., Glendale, AZ; 7. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Indianapolis, IN; 8. #7X Darren Stewart, Bixby, OK; 9. #7D Dakoda Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 10. #59 Dex Eaton, Owasso, OK; 11. #97K Caleb Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 12. #87C Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL

A Qualifier 3: 1. #37T Ron Shuman, Tempe, AZ; 2. #47 Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 3. #39 Kevin Swindell, Germantown, TN; 4. #9X Dave Darland, Walton, IN; 5. #8 Randi Pankratz, Atascadero, CA; 6. #21A Danny Stratton, Indianapolis, IN; 7. #15X Sam Hafertepe Jr., Sunnyvale, TX; 8. #43 Jeff Bland Jr., Springville, IN; 9. #88 Johnathon Henry, Linden, CA; 10. #10M Mason Moore, Princeton, CA; 11. #11X Steve Newman, Steamboat Springs, CO; 12. #39T Jason Meyers, Clovis, CA

A Qualifier 4: 1. #32 Darren Hagen, Riverside, CA; 2. #91 Kasey Kahne, Enumclaw, WA; 3. #71B Mark Brown, Glendenning, NSW; 4. #12 Trey Robb, Newcastle, OK; 5. #05B Greg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 6. #15 Tim Siner, Waterloo, IL; 7. #05J P.J. Jones, Torrance, CA; 8. #D33 Jeff Davis, Pittsburg, IL; 9. #50 Daniel Adler, East Carondolet, IL; 10. #14T Tony Rossi, Brighton, CO; 11. #8J Jason Holt, Brownsburg, IN; 12. #15N David Prickett, Fresno, CA

B Mains (Top 4 advance to A Main)

B Main 1: 1. #21 Tracy Hines, New Castle, IN; 2. #21A Danny Stratton, Indianapolis, IN; 3. #15 Tim Siner, Waterloo, IL; 4. #55K Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 5. #43 Jeff Bland Jr., Springville, IN; 6. #15X Sam Hafertepe Jr., Sunnyvale, TX; 7. #59 Dex Eaton, Owasso, OK; 8. #D33 Jeff Davis, Pittsburg, IL; 9. #20R Josh Richards, Shinnston, WV; 10. #25M Austin Mero, Kingsburg, CA; 11. #88 Johnathon Henry, Linden, CA; 12. #39T Jason Meyers, Clovis, CA; 13. #14T Tony Rossi, Brighton, CO; 14. #7P Anthony Peterman, Crawfordsville, IN; 15. #27D Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA; 16. #17K Kevin Morris, Ripon, CA

B Main 2: 1. #12 Trey Robb, Newcastle, OK; 2. #7D Dakoda Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 3. #11W Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA; 4. #97K Caleb Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 5. #05J P.J. Jones, Torrance, CA; 6. #10M Mason Moore, Princeton, CA; 7. #27 Randy Monroe Jr., Hampton, VA; 8. #87C Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL; 9. #8J Jason Holt, Brownsburg, IN; 10. #34 Bob Ream Jr., Glendale, AZ; 11. #15N David Prickett, Fresno, CA; 12. #8 Randi Pankratz, Atascadero, CA; 13. #11X Steve Newman, Steamboat Springs, CO; 14. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Indianapolis, IN; 15. #50 Daniel Adler, East Carondolet, IL; 16. #7X Darren Stewart, Bixby, OK

A Main (25 laps - Top 4 advance to Saturday Night's Main Event)

1. #71G Damion Gardner, Pittsboro, IN; 2. #9X Dave Darland, Walton, IN; 3. #71k Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA; 4. #91 Kasey Kahne, Enumclaw, WA; 5. #39 Kevin Swindell, Germantown, TN; 6. #12W Billy Wease, Noblesville, IN; 7. #67A Gary Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 8. #37T Ron Shuman, Tempe, AZ; 9. #12 Trey Robb, Newcastle, OK; 10. #25 Steve Buckwalter, Royersford, PA; 11. #21 Tracy Hines, New Castle, IN; 12. #21A Danny Stratton, Indianapolis, IN; 13. #15 Tim Siner, Waterloo, IL; 14. #55K Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 15. #7D Dakoda Armstrong, Newcastle, IN; 16. #71D Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE; 17. #11W Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA; 18. #05B Greg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 19. #97K Caleb Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 20. #67X Travis Rilat, Forney, TX; 21. #71B Mark Brown, Glendenning, NSW; 22. #47 Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 23. #7B Joe Boyles, Greenwood, MO; 24. #32 Darren Hagen, Manhattan Beach, CA

-credit: cbn/lw

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About this article
Series Midget
Drivers Jason Leffler , Darren Stewart , Kevin Swindell , Kasey Kahne , Brad Kuhn , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , P.J. Jones , Cory Kruseman , Jerry Coons , Jon Stanbrough , Jason Meyers , Travis Rilat , Billy Wease , Tim Siner , Shane Cottle , Steve Newman , Bryan Clauson , Shane Hollingsworth , Tracy Miller , Darren Hagen , Gary Altig , Randi Pankratz , Damion Gardner , Josh Most , Aaron Fiscus , Cole Whitt , Ryan Smith , Dakoda Armstrong , Caleb Armstrong , Josh Richards , Joe Boyles , Mike Spencer , Dex Eaton , Daniel Adler , Greg Bragg , Rich Camfield , Kyle Rayburn , David Prickett , Doug McCune , Travis Berryhill , Wayne Johnson , Bob Ream Jr. , Hunter Schuerenberg , Brent Beauchamp , Danny Stratton , Jason Dull , Kyle Larson , Mason Moore , Sam Hafertepe Jr.