Chili Bowl: Christopher Bell wins Thursday's A-Main
Christopher Bell was perfection on Thursday in the 32nd Chili Bowl Nationals.
Bell won his heat race, his qualifier and his fourth-career preliminary night feature at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
The Norman, Oklahoma native--and defending winner of the Chili Bowl Nationals--will compete in his fifth-consecutive A-Main come Saturday.
"It was a ton of fun, man," Bell said. "The track got really slick, really wide—yes, a ton of fun. It’s pretty special, man, to be able to be tied with Kyle (Larson) and Bryan (Clauson). Those are two of the best in the business.
"(The car) is really, really good right now. I’m excited to get to watch tomorrow. Yesterday was opne of the best races I’ve seen in a long time, and I expect tomorrow to be another good one."
Bell credited team owner Keith Kunz with the win. Kunz became the first team owner to sweep the first three preliminary night features with Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu picking up Monday and Tuesday night's wins.
Shane Golobic, who started sixth, finished second with Chase Johnson collecting the third transfer spot.
“Christopher was the class of the field all night,” Golobic said. “It was going to take a lot to beat him for the win.”
C.J. Leary, who started fourth driving the No. 55x for Alex Bowman, spun while battling Caleb Armstrong for second on Lap 3 to bring out the first caution. When the race returned to green, Chase Johnson passed Armstrong for second when Danny Stratton hit the wall in Turn 4 for Caution 2.
Bell once again shot out to a commanding lead on Lap 4 while the field battled behind the No. 71W Keith Kunz-prepared midget. By Lap 7, Golobic was challenging Armstrong for third. Gage Walker ignited Caution 3 on the backstretch on Lap 13. Bell had extended his lead to 4.7-seconds over Johnson.
Bell jumped out from the field again on the restart as Golobic passed Armstrong, then attacked Johnson for second. With five laps remaining, Bell, Golobic and Johnson held the transfer spots. Golobic cut Bells lead to 2.5-seconds when Cory Elliott spun to bring out the fourth and final caution with two laps.
Bell held the point for the final restart and finished .882-seconds over Golobic. Johnson completed the podium, 1.456-seconds behind Bell. Tracy Hines finished fourth followed by Armstrong, Ryan Bernal, Billy Pauch Jr., Matt Sherrell, Tim Crawley and Jerry Coons Jr.
For Bell, Thursday's victory marked his 11th win in his last 14 midget feature starts.
"I was just trying to bide my time there on the bottom," Bell said. "I saw Golobic was coming, and I saw where he was making up time on the top, and I decided to go up there and give it a shot—and my car was really good up there, too."
Perhaps the most impressive drive of the night came from Tanner Thorson behind the wheel of the No. 63 Dooling Hayward Motorsports midget. After the he broke an oil line in his heat race seven laps in, he recovered to win his D Feature and C Feature before finishing fourth in the first B Feature to transfer to the A Main. He finished 11th in the preliminary race.
Michael Pickens also had a standout performance in the second B Feature, coming from 14th to the fourth and final transfer spot. He finished 14th.
Johns Christner Trucking Qualifying Night Results
A Feature (25 laps): 1. Christopher Bell; 2. Shane Golobic; 3. Chase Johnson;
B Feature 1 (15 laps, top four transfer): 1. Ryan Bernal; 2. Mike Hess; 3. Danny Stratton; 4. Tanner Thorson
B Feature 2: 1. David Gravel; 2. Roger Crockett; 3. Hudson O’Neal; 4. Michael Pickens;
Qualifiers (Four races, 10 laps): 1. Christopher Bell; 2. Tim Crawley; 3. Billy Pauch Jr.; 4. Shane Golobic
C Feature 1 (12 laps, top four transfer): 1. Tanner Thorson; 2. Ty Hulsey; 3. Chad Winfrey; 4. Kyle O’Gara
C Feature 2: 1. Grady Chandler; 2. Michael Pickens; 3. Cody Ledger; 4. Michele Decker
D Feature 1 (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. Tanner Thorson; 2. Kyle O’Gara
D Feature 2: 1. Michael Pickens; 2. Frank Flud
Heat Race Winners (8 laps): 1. Tracy Hines; 2. Christopher Bell; 3. Paul Nienhiser; 4. Chase Johnson; 5. Matt Sherrell; 6. Tyler Edwards; 7. Steve Buckwalter; 8. Roger Crockett; 9. Caleb Armstrong; 10. C.J. Leary; 11. Shane Golobic
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