Kruseman caps spectacular evening with second Chili Bowl Crown

Cory Kruseman battled past Danny Lasoski at the midway point then held off "The Dude" over the final rounds to win Saturday night's 18th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 50-lap feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway. With the victory, Kruseman...

Cory Kruseman battled past Danny Lasoski at the midway point then held off "The Dude" over the final rounds to win Saturday night's 18th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 50-lap feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway. With the victory, Kruseman joins Sammy Swindell and Dan Boorse as the only multi-time winners of the nation's most prestigious Midget racing event.

Piloting the second Andy Bondio entry as Kruseman's teammate, USAC triple crown champion J.J. Yeley put the finishing touches on perhaps the most spectacular performance in Chili Bowl history by snaring the show position after swapping third with Tony Stewart a handful of times over the final rounds. Yeley's incredible drive included 120 laps of intense action and 69 positions gained after starting the day in the second "F" Main.

After accepting his second Golden Driller trophy, an elated Kruseman exclaimed, "Man, that was fun. The main thing here is you've got to be there at the end. I knew as long as I ran the best part of the racetrack they weren't going to beat me unless I made a mistake. If one of them beat me, it was going to be fair-and-square," concluded Kruseman after giving car owner Andy Bondio his third Chili Bowl championship, the other coming with Lealand McSpadden in 1991.

Thursday's Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores qualifying feature winner Jason Leffler led the 24-car feature field to the green flag with Wednesday winner Lasoski alongside. Leffler outgunned Lasoski to claim the early lead, only to have the caution fly after two rounds for Kasey Kahne's disabled mount in turn two.

As action resumed, Lasoski wasted little time moving to the front, racing past Leffler to take command on the fourth round, with Friday's preliminary winner Jerry Coons, Jr., charging past Leffler the next time around. Leffler jumped the cushion the next lap, allowing BMARA champion Davey Ray and fourth-starting Kruseman to move into third and fourth, respectively.

With the leaders sticking to the low line in the early stages, Lasoski set the pace with Coons, Ray, Kruseman, Leffler and former Chili Bowl winners Scott Hatton and Boorse in tow. Ray unsuccessfully tried the high line around Coons on the 13th round, with Kruseman taking quick advantage and advancing to third. Kruseman disposed of Coons for the runner-up slot two laps later and set his sights on Lasoski.

Kruseman closed on Lasoski's rear bumper and began challenging for the lead on the 18th round. Kruseman used the bottom of the track to pressure Lasoski for several rounds as the leaders approached heavy lapped traffic, ultimately taking command in turns three and four on the 25th circuit, with Ray dashing past Lasoski as well the next time around.

Ray was mounting a charge on Kruseman when the race's second caution flag flew on the 27th lap when Steve Buckwalter came to a halt in turn three. Back under way, Kruseman fought off Ray and Lasoski until the caution flew again nine laps later when Jimmy Sills' mount landed on its side in turn four.

During the ensuing caution, fourth-running Coons was forced to make a quick stop to change a flat left rear tire, relegating him to the rear. Kruseman led the way on the restart in front of Ray, Lasoski, Hatton and 11th-starter Stewart, who had begun his march toward the front. Directly behind Stewart was 16th-starter Yeley, who was making his charge to the front after running twelfth at the midway point.

Just one more lap was in the books when Josh Wise climbed the turn one wall, bringing out another caution. With Kruseman setting the pace on the restart, Lasoski ducked underneath Ray and regained second a lap later and set his sights on Kruseman, only to have action interrupted on lap 43 when Troy Rutherford looped his machine in turn four.

Running third behind Kruseman and Lasoski, Ray jumped the turn one cushion on the restart, collecting fourth-runner Hatton. Ray kept his machine going while Hatton came to a halt and restarted at the rear.

Apparently set for a wild eight-lap dash to the checkered flag, Kruseman led Lasoski, Ray, Stewart, Leffler and Yeley on the ensuing restart. Yeley made a tremendous charge as the green flag flew, blasting underneath Stewart and Leffler and mounting a charge on the leaders, only to have the move negated when 1995 Chili Bowl king Donnie Beechler slid to a halt in turn two.

The next attempt to complete the race would prove successful, with Ray once again slipping too high on the track and falling from contention. Lasoski attempted to make a bid for the lead in the final rounds aboard Jerry's Russell's Esslinger-powered Eagle, but Kruseman was up to the task and scored a narrow victory in front of a packed house in the Barnes-powered Kwik Change Bondio.

Just behind the lead duo, Stewart and Yeley traded slide jobs numerous times before Yeley finally secured the show position on the 48th round. "Racing with Tony Stewart is always fun," Yeley stated afterward. "When they moved me back behind Leffler and Stewart on that last restart, that hurt me some. I spent four of five laps trying to get back by those guys. It's always tough to say what would have happened though. Cory was super-fast tonight and getting around him wouldn't have been easy."

In the mix throughout, Leffler rounded out the top five behind Kruseman, Lasoski, Yeley and Stewart. Boorse took the checkered flag in sixth, while Danny Stratton capped a spectacular performance of his own by racing from 23rd to claim sixth after starting the day in the first "D" Main.

Ray settled for eighth, with Wilke-PAK Motorsports entries Tracy Hines and 19th-starter Dave Darland completing the top ten.

One year after passing 58 cars while advancing from "H" Main action to a "D" Feature, Yeley topped himself with his 2004 effort. After qualifying night difficulty on Thursday, Yeley gridded Saturday fourth in the second "F" Feature, where he needed just three laps to take command en route to the win.

>From there, Yeley electrified the crowd by racing from 13th to second in one lap in the second "E" Main before overhauling Johnny Rodriguez two laps later for another checkered flag. The heroics continued as Yeley raced from 13th to second in his "D" Main, then from 17th to third in his "C" Main. Yeley completed his charge to the main event by slicing through his "B" Feature to finish second after starting 18th.

Relatively unheralded, Stratton's stellar effort that culminated in a seventh place finish resulted in Chili Bowl Rookie honors after he advanced 45 positions from his "D" Main start. Stratton made a lap 10 pass to win the first 15-lap "D" Main after starting fifth, then blasted from 16th to make a late pass for the win in the first "C" Main. Stratton then advanced to the main event by racing from 16th to sixth in the first "B" Main.

While Ryan Kaplan kicked off the day's racing action by winning the first "I" Feature in Chili Bowl history, it was Jon Stanbrough who provided Saturday's early excitement, dashing past Josh Ford on the eighth round to win the first "H" Main. Stanbrough went on to overtake Brian Gard on lap nine of the first "G" Feature, then finish second to Rich Camfield in the first "F" Feature. Stanbrough's first Chili Bowl effort came to an end with a ninth place finish in the first "E" Feature.

Dean Franklin wired the field in the second "H" Feature in front of Wally McDuffey and Late Model ace Bart Hartman, with Hartman racing from 15th to win the second "G" Main. Hartman advanced once again with a third place run behind Yeley and young Bryan Clauson in the second "F" Main.

Dale Howard topped the first "E" Feature, with Yeley leading Rodriguez, Clauson and Hartman in the second "E" Main. After Stratton kicked off his show in the first "D" Main, Mike Hess checked out on the field and beat Yeley to the line in the second "D" Main. Stratton continued his impressive effort in the first "C" Main, with Don Droud, Jr., edging Boston Reid after a race-long battle in the second "C" Main.

Kahne slipped around Beechler on the fifth round en route to winning the first 20-lap "B" Feature, with Chad DeSelle making a late charge to win the second "B" Main in front of Yeley. After advancing from the second "C" Feature, Reid made a late charge to claim fifth in the second "B" Main then finished twelfth in the main event in his initial Chili Bowl effort.

There were ten flips on the day, with Ron Capps, Butch Middleton and Tracy Miller among flip victimes. All drivers walked away without injury.

A record total of 206 drivers competed in the 18th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals.

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Ron Capps , Donnie Beechler , Danny Lasoski , Kasey Kahne , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Cory Kruseman , Johnny Rodriguez , Jerry Coons , Josh Wise , Jon Stanbrough , Davey Ray , Boston Reid , Jimmy Sills , Bryan Clauson , Dean Franklin , Chad DeSelle , Ryan Kaplan , Josh Ford , Rich Camfield , Troy Rutherford