Christopher Bell led only one lap on Saturday, but his pass on teammate Kyle Larson on the last lap was enough to give Bell his third consecutive title at the 33rd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Raceway. The victory also marked the fifth consecutive for Toyota and Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM).
Toyota-powered drivers led every lap with pole-sitter Logan Seavey taking the point position at the drop of the green flag, with Larson moving into second and Bell having dropped to fourth, one spot ahead of fellow Toyota driver Zach Daum.
By lap 16, the leaders had reached lapped traffic where Larson began to close on Seavey. He would overtake Seavey by going low in traffic coming out of turn four on lap 21.
By the half-way point of the 55-lap race, Bell was all over Seavey, twice passing him only to see yellow flags come out negating each pass as the field reverted to the previous lap before the yellow. Eventually, on lap 34, Bell would go to the outside to overtake Seavey and then start to move in on race leader Larson. Behind them a tight four-way battle between Seavey, Daum, Brady Bacon and Justin Grant would ensue, with Grant taking third, followed by Bacon and Daum.
After riding the high line through much of the race, Bell began running the bottom of the track as he started reeling in Larson with less than 10 laps remaining as they weaved through traffic.
After taking the white flag signalling the final lap, Bell was right on Larson’s tail and when Larson made a slight bobble to go up the track, Bell dove inside him coming out of turn two to take a narrow lead. Larson made one last attempt at Bell coming out of turn three as he tried to dive back underneath, but the two KKM cars banged wheels with Bell holding on to win by half a car length in the biggest event in midget car racing.
Bacon would bring home the fourth spot, while Daum finished fifth as Toyota-powered drivers earned four of the top five finishing positions. Overall, 10 Toyota drivers advanced to the A Main’s final 24 out of a field of 350 entries. Seavey made it five Toyotas in the top 10 with a ninth-place showing, followed by Tucker Klaasmeyer, Colby Copeland and Rico Abreu in 13th through 15th, while Chad Boat placed 17th and David Gravel was 18th.
Toyota Chili Bowl Notes:
– Christopher Bell became just the second driver in Chili Bowl history to win three straight events, joining Kevin Swindell. He needs just one more win to match Swindell’s record of four. The win also was the fifth consecutive for Toyota and KKM with Rico Abreu driving to victories in 2015 and 2016, as well as Bell’s three triumphs.
– To go along with Saturday’s A Main feature victory, Toyota drivers won four of this year’s five preliminary night feature events at the Chili Bowl.
– Ten Toyota-powered drivers drivers advanced to this year’s A Main, which featured drivers from four different teams with Frank Manafort Racing (two), Daum Motorsports (one) and Tucker-Boat Motorsports (two) all represented in addition to KKM’s five.
– Holley Hollan was the highest finishing female driver at this year’s Chili Bowl as she advanced to the D Main. This year marked the 17-year-old Tulsa native’s first Chili Bowl with KKM and Toyota and second overall.
– Toyota rookies Cannon McIntosh and Jesse Colwell joined Zeb Wise as the top three rookies of the event with each advancing to the B Main. McIntosh became the youngest driver (16 years, 1 month) to finish in the top five in a preliminary feature event earlier in the week and then placed 10th in Saturday’s B. Colwell, who drove his way into the Chili Bowl by winning the KKM Giveback Classic Outlaw Kart event, placed 11th in his B while competing in just his third Midget car race ever.
Christopher Bell, KKM Toyota: (On the last lap) “I saw Kyle dive down into one and he was about half a car too high and that was all I needed there. I knew the bottom was coming in, so I decided the last five laps just to start creeping and the first few I missed the bottom similar to what Kyle did. By that last lap, I had figured out how low I needed to be to stick it and that’s how I won the race.”
(On tonight’s race) “Honestly, after Thursday, I didn’t think I was going to win the race. Then they dropped the green flag and I didn’t really want to lead early and I was ok with Logan getting out front there, but we had three starts in a row where I was able to duck in behind him, but there was a problem on each. Then we had a last start and I was running fourth and that was not as planned. I wasn’t too worried about it until Kyle started pressuring Logan and I’m still behind Grant and they’re scooting away a little bit. I knew time wasn’t on my side there. I was getting nervous and a little frustrated. Not having split scoring tonight was extremely heart breaking. I would have to work so hard to get by Logan and then the yellow would come out three quarters or seven-eighths of a lap afterward and then they’d put him back in front of me. I felt like that was going to ruin my chance to win the race.”
(On the competition at this year’s race) “There’s just a ton of great race cars and race car drivers here. I don’t feel like anyone really had a strong advantage going into the race. It’s just going to be who does the best job. Luckily, I had the best last lap.”
(On winning three straight and having a chance to tie the record of four next year) “It’s cool, but for me, it’s not so much winning four in a row as it is just simply winning. The number really doesn’t matter to me. It’s just more so about winning races. I just want to race and it doesn’t matter whether I’m running go-karts or whether I’m at the Chili Bowl, I just want to win so bad.”
Tyler Gibbs, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) General Manager: (On what it means to win five in a row at the Chili Bowl) “I remember the Swindells winning five in a row and that was tough to take, but we were learning a lot in the process. That’s just the way Toyota does it. We come and continually get better and better. We’re fortunate to be partners with Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby. KKM is incredible, so to have that type of organization to work and grow with has been instrumental for us. Let me add, we had four drivers from three different teams finish in the top-five tonight. We’re proud of all the teams we partner with – Frank Manafort Racing, Zach Daum, Tucker-Boat and Petry Motorsports. We’re really proud of all of them and I just wanted to say thank you to all of our teams as they represent us really well.”
Keith Kunz, KKM team owner:(On the on-track battles between Bell and Larson) “These guys just know how to race each other. They see a slide job coming and they know how to crossover and counter. They do things that I don’t think any of us have seen anybody do in a long time between the two of them. I’m just a fan when it comes to that stuff. I didn’t see that last lap coming, with about two to go he was about a second behind and then all of a sudden he was a half-second behind. I never saw that coming.”
(On Christopher and Kyle and where they rank among the drivers he’s worked with) “They’re the two best ever. As far as I’ve seen in my lifetime and, definitely, that I’ve worked with or seen, they are just the two best ever.”
(On winning five in a row) “I never imagined winning five in a row here. I never imagined I’d even win a couple of these and now this is the ninth one. I feel like we can keep winning – with Christopher, Kyle and Rico and some of the kids we have coming up we can continue to win. Kyle’s going to win a couple of these and Christopher’s not done winning. We have other guys who are just as hungry.”
(On the competiveness of the Chili Bowl) “The competition at the Chili Bowl and all over midget racing now is just something we’ve never seen before. In 2018, it was an unbelievable season for midget car racing. More cars and better drivers. Everybody’s fielding really good cars and on any given night, it’s just as easy to run 12th as it is top three.”
Brady Bacon, Frank Manafort Racing Toyota: “We had a really good car. It’s just that anymore that everyone is really good that you have to start in the first couple of rows. We had a really good car through the middle of the race when it was the best opportunity to pass and we got a couple. At the end, the top got a little powdery and it was a little difficult to get a run on somebody. We had a run on Grant a couple of times for third, but he’d hit the berm and we had to lift a couple of times. You definitely can’t complain about running fourth at the Chili Bowl among 350 cars. Our Toyota was really good tonight. We had a good car when it was heavy and a good car when it was slick and that’s all you can ask for.
Zach Daum, Daum Motorsports Toyota: “Next week I’ll be happy to have run fifth, but right now I’m not. I thought we were better than that. (On the fight for the third, fourth and fifth positions) It was pretty crazy there. It was a really competitive between Justin, Brady and I. It was just fun. The race track was really technical. To run the bottom you had to actually hit the bottom and that’s where I thought we were better. We just couldn’t get off the corner like we needed to when I had people around me. I’m sure it was a good race to watch. I’m not mad, I just wish we could have run just a little bit better.
Jesse Colwell, Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota: “It was definitely a lot more than I was expecting. I certainly wasn’t expecting to even make the B Main on Saturday. It’s definitely the most competition I’ve ever raced against. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on in our B. If you haven’t been here before, definitely come to the Chili Bowl.”
Cannon McIntosh, David McIntosh Racing Toyota: “Coming into this with a brand new race car, we had high expectations. We just wanted to do the best we can and we really came out and performed on our preview night and ran fifth. We were just amazed by that. This is our first year as a team and to come out to the Chili Bowl and show the speed we did was crazy. It’s disappointing that we didn’t make the feature race tonight, but we proved to a lot of people that we can hang with these guys and we’re definitely going to be back here next year to try to get some redemption. I’m just really proud of this entire year.”
Holley Hollan, Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota: “I reached my goal of reaching my prelim feature on Wednesday night, so I’m pleased with how that went. The feature didn’t really go our way. Tonight, we were running pretty good in our D Main. We started 15th and I believe we were running up in the top 10 when we got caught up in someone else’s mess. We went back to 18th or 19th and came back to finish 13th. So we showed speed tonight, I just didn’t have the luck to go with it. Overall, it was a good week and I’m thankful to be part of such an amazing team with Keith Kunz and Toyota. You can’t really hang your head for anything, especially at such a prestigious event like this. It’s difficult to do well. A lot of good drivers won’t be in the A Main here. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Karsyn Elledge, Tucker-Boat Motorsports Toyota: (On her first Chili Bowl experience) “Honestly, it was more than I could have hoped for. I didn’t have high expectations for myself coming here. I haven’t always had the most self-confidence, but we were able to start off with a heat race win that gave me the confidence to say, ok we can do this, we can fight with these guys. Unfortunately, we had a taste of bad luck in the qualifier and in the B when we got caught up in everyone else’s mess. So that put us in deep today, starting in the H. We won that, then we were in the G and flat got taken out, but it is what it is. Overall, I can’t really complain about my Chili Bowl experience. They knew we were here and they knew we were fast – and that’s really all you can ask for. We’re trying to put together something together for this year and maybe go USAC racing if we can. It’s been an honor to run with Tucker-Boat. Chad and Billy have been really helpful the whole way, dating back to last year. To get to run a full season with these guys would, honestly, be a dream come true if we can get it worked out.
Toyota Powered Drivers Chili Bowl Finishing Positions
|71W||Christopher Bell||Norman, OK||A Main – 1st|
|01||Kyle Larson||Elk Grove, CA||A Main – 2nd|
|76M||Brady Bacon||Broken Arrow, OK||A Main – 4th|
|5D||Zach Daum||Pocahontas, IL||A Main – 5th|
|67||Logan Seavey||Sutter, CA||A Main – 9th|
|27||Tucker Klaasmeyer||Paola, KS||A Main – 13th|
|87||Colby Copeland||Roseville, CA||A Main – 14th|
|97||Rico Abreu||Rutherford, CA||A Main – 15th|
|84X||Chad Boat||Phoenix, AZ||A Main – 17th|
|76G||David Gravel||Watertown, CT||A Main – 18th|
|08||Cannon McIntosh||Broken Arrow, OK||B Main|
|71||Jesse Colwell||Cottonwood, CA||B Main|
|52||Blake Hahn||Sapulpa, OK||B Main|
|97K||Spencer Bayston||Lebanon, IN||B Main|
|9X||Paul Nienhiser||Chapin, IL||C Main|
|15M||Jason McDougal||Broken Arrow, OK||C Main|
|71K||Tanner Carrick||Lincoln, CA||C Main|
|25||Jerry Coons Jr.||Tucson, AZ||C Main|
|91T||Tyler Thomas||Collinsville, OK||C Main|
|89||Tanner Berryhill||Bixby, OK||C Main|
|67K||Holley Hollan||Tulsa, OK||D Main|
|2G||Steve Buckwalter||Royersford, PA||D Main|
|91W||Hayden Williams||Auckland, NZ||D Main|
|5P||Kyle Craker||Lewisberry, PA||E Main|
|72K||Sam Johnson||St. Peters, MO||E Main|
|5R||Ryan Foster||Anderson, CA||F Main|
|1L||Landon Simon||Brownsburg, IN||F Main|
|83||Karsyn Elledge||Mooresville, NC||G Main|
|56X||Mark Chisholm||Cheyenne, WY||G Main|
|71X||McKenna Haase||Des Moines, IA||H Main|
|35||Sterling Cling||Tempe, AZ||H Main|
|13M||Dennis Gile||Glendale, AZ||I Main|
|1S||A.J. Flick||Apollo, PA||I Main|
|91A||Chris Andrews||Sandusky, OH||J Main|
|2J||J.J. Yeley||Charlotte, NC||L Main|
|5T||Presley Truedson||Kennedy, MN||M Main|
|5S||Jimmy Elledge||Mooresville, NC||N Main|
|27Z||Zane Hendricks||Stillwater, OK||O Main|
Toyota Racing PR