From Bryan Hulbert / chiibowl.com
Winning Thursday’s John Christer Trucking Qualifying Night, Christopher Bell used every line possible to work by Tanner Thorson in the final five laps. Tying Sammy Swindell for all-time preliminary night wins, Bell's win was his seventh in as many years to make it eighth victories since 2014.
Back in a car owned by Keith Kunz Motorsports, the win is No. 35 for Kunz at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“First off I’ve got to say, damn I love the Chili Bowl!” stated Bell from Victory Lane.
On his ability to run the car anywhere he wanted, Bell stated, “Man I don’t know, I feel like I’ve struggled on the wet tracks, and especially when they put their feature setup in. I just really struggle to get going the first couple of laps, but at the end, I feel good. I could roll the bottom nice, and it was good on the top too. For whatever reason, this package we’re running is making it good when the track really slicks off and the curb gets really big, but man, I had to work for that one.”
Getting to the lead over Shane Golobic on Lap 5, Tanner Thorson held point on the field until Lap 27. Pursued by Bell, who worked to second with 11 laps to run, traffic played into the race as the leaders hit the 20th revolution. Trading lines with Thorson, the iRacing No. 71w had a run working Lap 22 but would have to wait as the caution waved.
Going for the slide on the restart, Bell slammed the cushion, allowing Thorson to retake the lead. Challenged by C.J. Leary for a moment, Bell was able to regroup. Caution again working Lap 25, the field reverted back to Lap 24 as only the top four made it across the line before the caution was called for.
The top three to the hub of the Tulsa Expo Raceway on the restart, Thorson stayed low as Bell adjusted back to the cushion. Taking over the lead on Lap 27, the next three laps were anyone’s race to win as Thorson and Leary went after the No. 71w, but Bell would not be denied the win; crossing with only 0.380-seconds to spare.
Keeping the upper hand through the final two turns, Tanner Thorson locked into Saturday night with a runner-up finish. C.J. Leary settled for third. Rolling through a Dave.com B-Feature, Tim Buckwalter clawed his way through the field from 20th to finish fourth. Shane Golobic ended up fifth.
From 18th, Brady Bacon ended up sixth with Dillon Welch seventh. Matt Sherrell advanced six spots to finish eighth. Recovering from an early caution, Emerson Axsom crossed ninth with Don Droud, Jr. making up twelve spots to round out the top ten.
Thursday saw 78 of the 82 scheduled drivers draw in, bringing the week’s total to 299. With Friday to go, there will be a new attendance record. The World Wide Technology Raceway Flip Count made it to 36 with everyone able to walk away.
Preliminary Night action concludes with Friday’s Drive2Save Lives Qualifying Night. The SageNet Center opens at 9:00 A.M. and will require a ticket or Pit Pass to enter. Hot Laps are at 4:00 P.M. with racing at 5:00 P.M. General Admission Pit Passes are sold at the event and never sell out.
A Feature (30 Laps):
1. 71W-Christopher Bell; 2. 19T-Tanner Thorson; 3. 55V-CJ Leary; 4. 29-Tim Buckwalter; 5. 17W-Shane Golobic; 6. 21H-Brady Bacon; 7. 81X-Dillon Welch; 8. 2D-Matt Sherrell; 9. 39B-Emerson Axsom; 10. 22T-Don Droud Jr; 11. 68W-Shane Cottle; 12. 1S-Spencer Bayston; 13. 25B-Steve Buckwalter; 14. 51B-Joe B Miller; 15. 9-Mitchell Davis; 16. 71R-Frankie Guerrini; 17. 47X-Danny Stratton; 18. (DNF) 15D-Andrew Deal; 19. (DNF) 71G-Damion Gardner; 20. (DNF) 86-Brent Crews; 21. (DNF) 77-Stevie Sussex III; 22. (DNF) 4M-Brody Fuson; 23. (DNF) 57-Maria Cofer; 24. (DNF) 2E-Whit Gastineau
Lap Leader(s): Shane Golobic 1-4; Tanner Thorson 5-26; Christopher Bell 27-30
Hard Charger: Tim Buckwalter +16
Live coverage can be found on http://www.floracing.com.
For continued updates on the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire, follow the event on Social Media (@cbnationals) and at http://www.chilibowl.com.
(Image Credit: Brendon Bauman)
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