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Kyle Larson wins A main on opening night of Chili Bowl Nationals

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Kyle Larson continued his winning ways in a midget car, capturing the A main on the opening night of the Chili Bowl Nationals and qualifying for Saturday night’s feature race.

Larson recently returned from New Zealand where he won three of four midget races.

Tuesday night, Larson finished ahead of brother-in-law Brad Sweet and Tyler Courtney. All three advance to Saturday night’s A main on the quarter-mile clay oval inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square.

Justin Allgaier finished 12th in Tuesday night’s race.

Racing continues Wednesday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those scheduled to compete are Rico Abreu, who has made 26 career Camping World Truck Series starts, and Donny Schatz, who competes in the World of Outlaws for Tony Stewart Racing.

Earlier in the night, Chad Boat won the Race of Champions exhibition race. Larson was second and Tanner Thorson was third. Sweet finished fifth. Also in the race, Abreu was 10th, reigning Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell placed 11th, Kasey Kahne 14th and JJ Yeley was last in the 19-car field.

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NASCAR Trucks champ Christopher Bell celebrates 23rd birthday with 10th Midget win in 13 starts

Photo courtesy Christopher Bell official Twitter page
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A month after capturing the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, Christopher Bell celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday night by winning the third annual “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Midget Special in Du Quoin, Illinois.

Bell passed fellow Toyota driver Chad Boat with four laps remaining to win the event on the indoor, one-sixth-mile dirt oval.

It was the final race of the year for Bell – and what a year it has been.

It started with his first triumph in January’s Chili Bowl in Tulsa and continued with the Truck championship on Nov. 16. Then, less than a week later, there was a win in the Turkey Night Grand Prix on Thanksgiving night at California’s Ventura Raceway, which along with the Chili Bowl are the two biggest races in midget car racing.

And after starting his overall racing season with a win in Tulsa, Bell bookended checkered flags at the front and back end of the year with his win in Du Quoin.

The 2013 USAC National Midget champ qualified third for Saturday’s race. He moved into second when Boat took the lead from pole sitter Trey Marcham on Lap 18.

A final caution came out on Lap 50. On the ensuing restart, Bell took the lead on Lap 52 and would hold off fellow NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe by .295 of a second for the win, followed by Shane Golobic, Boat and Justin Grant in fifth.

It was Bell’s 10th win in 13 Midget starts this season, a 77 percent winning percentage and the most wins he’s ever earned in a season (his previous best was seven wins in the 2013 and 2014 seasons).

“To be able to win the last race of the year like that is pretty cool,” the Norman, Oklahoma native said in a media release. “Going to NASCAR has made me a better racecar driver just because it’s taught me things I didn’t learn here on the dirt.

“That’s something I’ve been able to find that when you run these really long races, you learn that you don’t have to lead lap five. You don’t have to lead lap 10. You only have to lead the last lap. That’s something I’ve really tried to apply in midget racing and it seems to have worked.”

Also, Camping World Truck star Matt Crafton made his first career Midget start, advancing to the B Main where he finished 13th, not high enough to advance to the night’s big feature.

There will be little rest for Bell and others: he will attempt to defend his Chili Bowl championship in just over three weeks – January 9-13 at the Tulsa Expo Center.

And just over a month after that, Bell will embark upon his first full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Bryan Clauson wins final Chili Bowl qualifier, Kasey Kahne locked in

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Bryan Clauson, the 2014 Chili Bowl champion and seven-time USAC champion, started from the pole and finished there in the final qualifying feature for Saturday’s main event at the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Clauson was followed by 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie and Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne in the 25-lap A-feature. All three drivers locked themselves into Saturday night’s main feature.

The race was slowed by only one caution for an incident involving D.J. Natto.

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NASCAR TIES: Kahne started and finished third in the A-feature after finished second in his heat race and fourth in his qualifier … NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chad Boat won both his heat race and his qualifying races. Boat then started the A-Feature in 11th before finishing eighth.

NOTABLE: Driver Shane Cockrum was disqualified after he was caught posing as another driver after having already competed in his qualifying race.  Cockrum was found to be impersonating Alex Shanks … IndyCar crew member Anton Julian was a DNF in his heat race and finished seventh in the C-Feature … 2006 Chili Bowl winner McCreadie finished third in his heat, second in his qualifier and second in the A-Feature … Dave Darland finished second in his heat race, 10th in his qualifier, fourth in the B-Feature and then 14th in the A-Feature.

NEXT: Saturday features the championship night and the main event of the Chili Bowl, which will include the top three finishers from all four A-Features. Winners of the four A-features this week were Alex Bright, NASCAR drivers Rico Abreu and Christopher Bell and Clauson.

FEATURE RACE RESULTS:

1. 63-Bryan Clauson

2. 47X-Tim McCreadie

3. 67Z-Kasey Kahne

4. 21-Daryn Pittman

5. 17G-Shane Golobic

6. 71G-Damion Gardner

7. 67-Tanner Thorson

8. 15X-Chad Boat

9. 73X-Jac Haudenschild[8]

10. 05H-Hunter Schuerenberg

11. 21K-Cory Kruseman

12. 68-Ronnie Gardner

13. 14-Trevor Kobylarz

14. 11AG-Dave Darland

15. 27T-Tucker Klaasmeyer

16. 35S-Danny Faria Jr

17. 51W-Danny Sheridan

18. 15-Tim Siner

19. 9K-Kyle Schuett

20. 31B-David Budres

21. 80-Josh Hawkins

22. 98D-Clinton Boyles

23. (DNF) 88N-D.J. Netto

D 20A-Alex Shanks

Christopher Bell dominates Thursday night race before Chili Bowl

Photo: Chili Bowl
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Christopher Bell dominated Thursday night’s preliminary feature ahead of Saturday’s Chili Bowl, in a flag-to-flag race win.

Bell started from pole in the 25-lap feature at River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square and led the rest of the way, even despite a flurry of cautions and a wealth of action behind him. Bell, who won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora last year, earns a spot in Saturday night’s 55-lap feature.

Short track veteran Jerry Coons Jr. drove from 10th on the grid to second to make it to his 13th straight consecutive Chili Bowl final, while Shane Cottle grabbed third place from C.J. Leary on the final lap. Both of those two raced their way into the main event on Saturday.

Beyond Bell, fellow NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Tanner Berryhill all made the A Main. Stenhouse finished best of those three, finishing sixth after starting 13th.

NASCAR TIES: Allgaier, Stenhouse Jr., Berryhill and Bell all won in their respective eight-lap heat races. … Allgaier and Bell then proceeded to finish 1-2 in the second of four 10-lap qualifying races, while Berryhill and Stenhouse were 2-3 in the third to advance to the A Main.

NOTABLE: IndyCar owner Sarah Fisher finished sixth, and sports car veteran Chris Dyson fifth, in their respective heat races. … Both Dyson and Fisher then ended sixth in the first and second C Mains. Another competitor punted Dyson, while Fisher was reportedly behind two cars that tangled at the finish; Kip Hughes and Mark Chisholm both flipped but were OK. … Brady Bacon, a past driver for Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, finished fifth in his qualifying race and second in the second B Main, by just 0.03 of a second to Justin Peck. … Short track veteran and 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines captured a win in the fourth qualifying race.

NEXT: Friday’s qualifying races mark the last day of action before the Saturday feature race. Those of note set to run include Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne, short track veterans Bryan Clauson, Dave Darland, Daryn Pittman, Cory Kruseman, John Heydenreich, Damion Gardner and Jac Haudenschild, 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chad Boat and IndyCar crew member Anton Julian, among others. A full list is here.


FEATURE RACE RESULTS:

1-71-Christopher Bell
2-5-Jerry Coons Jr.
3-71X-Shane Cottle
4-2A-C.J. Leary
5-24-Tracy Hines
6-17R-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7-5X-Justin Peck
8-38-Justin Grant
9-3B-Joe B. Miller
10-17H-Harli White
11-15D-Andrew Deal
12-76M-Brady Bacon
13-29S-Anthony Nocella
14-05S-Dominic Scelzi
15-17M-Paul McMahan
16-27H-Tanner Berryhill
17-47-Danny Stratton
18-7JA-Justin Allgaier
19-37B-Jake Blackhurst
20-37-Seth Bergman
21-7A-Scott Weir
22-56J-Sheldon Haudenschild
23-7XX-Gage Walker
24-91K-Kevin Bayer

Full results from Thursday’s races