CORY CRUISES TO THRILLING FRIDAY NIGHT WIN AT THE CHILI BOWL Tulsa, OK - Friday the 13th proved to be lucky for Ventura, CA's Cory Kruseman, as the Kruser captured his preliminary main event on Warren CAT Qualifying Night at the Chili Bowl.
CORY CRUISES TO THRILLING FRIDAY NIGHT WIN AT THE CHILI BOWL
Tulsa, OK - Friday the 13th proved to be lucky for Ventura, CA's Cory Kruseman, as the Kruser captured his preliminary main event on Warren CAT Qualifying Night at the Chili Bowl. Actually, the 2000 and 2004 Chili Bowl champion didn't need any luck, he just needed the top groove to come in for him, which it did.
"The top got better and the bottom got worse, and that helped me to get him (runner-up P.J. Jones)," explained the pilot of one of Andy Bondio's creations. "P.J. was really strong."
Wednesday and Thursday's features were exciting, but Friday's was absolutely spine-tingling. Kruseman jumped from the pole position to lead lap one, but Jones shoved his TCR/Minarik Chevy no. 17J under the Kruser in turns one and two to snatch the top spot on the second circuit. Jones would set the pace for the next 11 trips on the Tulsa Expo Center's clay surface, as six yellow flags plagued the first half of the race.
Kruseman turned up the pressure as the event neared its halfway point. He rolled around the bottom of turns three and four, then blasted out of the corner ahead of Jones. P.J. pulled a slider in one and two to retake the lead. Kruseman decided to try the high line, and powered around Jones in turn four to reclaim the point as they charged to the crossed flags.
Three more caution periods dotted the second half of the 25-lapper. The restarts allowed Mike Goodman, Sammy Swindell, and high-flying Kasey Kahne to join the party at the head of the field. On one restart, Goodman went to the top in one and two, and made it a three-wide battle for the lead. Jones, running the low side, motored into the top spot on the backstretch, with Kruseman fending off the challenge by Tulsa's own, Goodman. But the fun was just beginning...
The Bondio/Barnes Oil Pumps/Axtell Cams no. 47 of Kruseman swept by Jones as Swindell, sneaking through the pack on the extreme inside groove, moved into fourth. A four-car wrestling match ensued as Jones, Goodman, Swindell, and Kahne battled for the runner-up position. Kruseman pulled away as the fans roared their approval over the incredible fight behind him.
A final yellow flag with two to go set up a fantastic finish. Kruseman shot out in front, with Kahne riding the cushion in one and two to rocket around Swindell. As soon as he cleared the Venture Racing no. 1, Kahne dove to the inside in an attempt to get under Jones. Kruseman flew to the checkered ahead of Jones, who nosed out Kahne for second. Swindell was a very close fourth, with Goodman valiantly chasing the top four to the finish line.
In the press conference following the race, Kruseman was asked to announce the night's attendance figure to the assembled media. "There were 13,622 people here tonight," pronounced the winner. "Are you sure that you are paying us enough?", he asked the Chili Bowl officials who were in the room.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Tony Stewart, coming off a nasty flip in Wednesday's warm-ups, appeared to be primed and ready to qualify on Friday, winning his heat race by a comfortable margin. In the fourth A Qualifier, however, the Columbus, IN chauffeur flipped his Coca Cola no. 20 again. Stewart was flying down the backstretch on the opening lap of the event when he ran out of racing room, hit the wall, and launched into a frightening series of tumbles along the wall. He may have suffered an injury to his arm in the crash, and was reportedly dazed as he left the Tulsa Expo Center to seek treatment. His crew went to work on the car immediately, but it was not known if the 2002 Chili Bowl winner would be physically ready for competition on Saturday.
It was a difficult evening for the three ARDC competitors entered in Friday's prelim. Andy Martin, the Gordonville Flash, started last (9th) in his heat race. The 2005 ARDC Rookie of the Year earned plenty of passing points in the eight-lapper, finishing in the fourth position. But Martin's night worsened from there, as the engine in his no. 21m began to sputter in A Qualifier #2. Martin started seventh in that race, and was beginning to work his way through traffic in spite of his engine woes. He blasted into turn one a bit too high on one occasion, though, catching the wall and laying his midget on its side.
Andy was able to restart, but dropped out on the final lap due to the nagging motor problem. That put him into the second B Main, where he was also forced to retire (while running eighth), due to the same blubbering motor, with a few laps remaining.
Reading, PA's Tracy Miller took the green in third spot in the night's final heat race. Tracy fell back, but managed a third place finish when the two cars in front of her got together in turn four on the last lap.
In A Qualifier #1, Miller was collected in a first turn mishap on the initial start. She finished ninth in that one, placing her in B Main number one. Tracy, with nowhere to go, plowed into Damien Gardner, who spun in turn three. Her crew quickly replaced a flat tire, and her night ended with a tenth place finish.
Colorado's Brian Mater, who gained a Chili Bowl ride in the Miller Racing Team no. 7x via an Ebay auction, wound up fifth in the same heat race as Tracy. He started on the pole in Last Chance Race #3, but immediately faded to the back of the pack. It was Mater's first dirt track experience; he competes in the Super Stock division at I-25 Speedway in his home state. I-25 is a quarter-mile asphalt track.