Hatton Hustles to Love's Thursday Night Thunder at the Bowl victory in Chili Bowl qualifying action.
Lonnie Wheatley - TULSA, Okla. (January 9, 2003) - Scott Hatton made a long-awaited return to the Tulsa Expo Raceway's Chili Bowl Nationals victory lane, leading wire-to-wire to claim the Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Thursday Night Thunder at the Bowl 25-lap qualifying feature victory.
Hatton, who won the second running of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in 1988, earned the pole starting position for Thursday night's 22-car feature by coming from seventh to win the fourth heat. As the green flag flew, Hatton got the jump on fellow front row starter Jeremy Sherman to take command early.
Sherman trailed Hatton by several car-lengths in the early going, with Randy Koch, Luke Icke and Greg Lueckert pursuing the lead duo. Hatton's machine began to miss soon after a lap five caution for Damion Gardner, who came to a stop in turn two.
Sensing the opportunity, Sherman intensified his challenges for the lead, with Hatton utilizing the low-groove to perfection to maintain the lead. Sherman's bid for the lead came to an end on the 13th round when he spun in turn one.
Hatton survived another pair of cautions over the final half of the race, including a lap 21 tangle that collected eight cars in turn three, including top ten contenders Ron Gregory, Ray Bull and Kenny Lewis. Unaffected, Hatton kept the Miller Lite Mopar-powered Stealth in front to the checkered flag, holding a five car-length advantage at the stripe.
Koch, who took over second when Sherman spun, held second at the finish in Bill Ecker's Gaerte-powered Kunz, with Icke claiming third in his Singer-powered Ellis in his first ever visit to the Chili Bowl. Lueckert snared the fourth and final transfer position to Saturday night's 17th Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals main event.
P.J. Jones rounded out the top five, with Brad Kuhn in sixth. Gardner recovered from his early incident to claim seventh, with Shane Matthews turning in the feature's top passing performance by coming from 18th to finish eighth. David Camfield, Jr., and Blake Feese completed the top ten.
Heat race victories for the 67-car field were claimed by Gardner, Sherman, Kuhn, Hatton, Shane Hollingsworth, Wally Pankratz, Lueckert, Kevin Doty and Jones. Camfield and Craig Carey topped the 12-lap B Features, with Critter Malone and David Rosales winning the 10-lap C Features.
Tracy Hines, one of the pre-race favorites, was involved in a lap nine turn three tangle, then exited the race after 21 laps when the rear brake area ignited under a caution period. Sherman was the race's only other casualty, leaving the track at the same time with a flat left rear tire.
J.J. Yeley's Chili Bowl championship hopes took a severe blow when his motor expired on the second round in his heat race, bringing an early end to his night.
Josh Lakatos needed only seven rounds to charge from seventh into the lead en route to winning the 15-lap Ford Focus feature. Lakatos overtook Chad DeSelle on the seventh round, then held off Chris Rahe and Tyler Brown over the final rounds. Derek Mungor crossed the stripe fourth, with DeSelle rounding out the top five.