Chili Bowl: Bell goes back to back; heartbreak for Larson
Christopher Bell went back-to-back in the Chili Bowl Nationals on Saturday.
The Norman, Oklahoma native captured his second Golden Driller by taking the lead after Kyle Larson’s engine blew up with 13 laps remaining in the 55-lap feature.
The victory marked the fourth-consecutive win for Keith Kunz Motorsports, who swept the podium with Rico Abreu and Spencer Bayston finishing second and third, respectively.
"To win the Chili Bowl last year is something that I’ll never forget," Bell said. "To be able to do it back-to-back is something that I’m just speechless for. Man, honestly, I’m really bummed about Kyle, because I thought we were going to have a really good race there. I don’t know when his motor started laying down, but I started making up time on him. I followed him three or four laps, and I could tell that it was struggling. That was really hard.
"At the beginning of the race I wasn’t too worried about him driving away. I was just trying to take my time and run my own race. Whenever we were rolling around there under yellow, I’m looking at the track, and I’m like, ‘I think the top will be there in (Turns) 3 and 4. As soon as I tried it, it was there right away. At that time, I was just trying to pace myself and not make a mistake or run too hard. And then I got to lapped traffic, and I took it way too easy, and Kyle was able to sneak by me. He was getting through lapped traffic great. It seemed like every time he caught someone he was able to put ‘em a lap down, and then I’d get trapped behind ‘em. I hate it for Kyle, man. I wanted to race that one out.
Tanner Thorson and Ryan Bernal rounded out the top five.
Larson led the first 10 laps when Giovanni Scelzi stalled on the front stretch to ignite the first caution. Bell ran second followed by Abreu, Sweet and Grant. Swindell needed a push to get rolling and came back up through the field.
Bell took the lead on Lap 11 as Grant passed Sweet for fourth.
Shane Golobic triggered the second caution after spinning in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 13. Bell leads followed by Larson, Abreu, Sweet, Grant and Courtney. Swindell lost power coming off of the Turn 4 on Lap 17 and Andrew Felker plows into the rear of the No. 1 midget.
Bell led the field to green with Larson, Abreu, Grant and Courtney in tow. Spencer Bayston, Tyler Thomas and Tanner Thorson move up.
Larson regained the lead on Lap 27. Bell drops to second followed by Abreu, Grant, Courtney, Thomas, Bayston and Thorson.
On Lap 34, Thorson passed Courtney for sixth. Courtney spun and was hit by Tyler Thomas for the fourth caution of the night. Keith Kunz held the top four spots with Larson at the point followed by Bell, Abreu, Bayston. Grant rounded out the top five. Thorson, who started 17th, sat sixth.
With 20 to go, Bayston passed Abreu for third and Sweet followed through before settling for fifth. In a shocking moment, Larson’s engine expired after 42 laps and Bell moved into the race lead.
“It’s tough to blow up, it always is,” Larson told motorsport.com. “I kind of dealt with it a few months ago. So I’m kind of used to it now.”
Abreu took over second, followed by Bayston, Sweet and Thorson.
“Last year was so special because each year that I got closer and closer to winning the Chili Bowl, I could feel the atmosphere pick up and the intensity pick up each time they announced my name," said Bell, who scored his 46th-career National Midget win. "For an Oklahoma guy to not win for so long, then for me to get it last year was really special. Back-to-back is even cooler.
Bell extended his lead with 10 laps to go and cruised to the victory, 3.1 seconds over Abreu.
“I’m not going to run him over,” Abreu said of his teammate Bell. “You don’t have to do that when you have a car like that.”
Sammy Swindell qualified for his 24th A-Main with his victory in the First B Feature. For the five-time CBN’s winner, it marked his second career B-Main win.
“Tracy (Hines) and I made a little deal not to slide each other,” Swindell said.
With his 10th-place result the first B, Jerry Coons Jr.’s streak of 14-consecutive A-Main appearances ended on Saturday night. Although C.J. Leary transferred from the D-Main to the B, his Alex Bowman-owned midget stalled at the start of the 20-lap feature and his Chili Bowl Nationals run was cut short.
Caleb Armstrong earned his first B-Main win after starting third. Giovanni Scelzi, who started fifth and finished second, took rookie honors for the event.
On the opening lap of the second B-Main, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became No. 70 on the Flip Counter and in the process made contact with local favorite Daryn Pittman, who finished second in the A-Main in 2017. Pittman settled for 12th.
Saturday Night Results
A Feature (55 Laps): 1. Christopher Bell ; 2. Rico Abreu; 3. Spencer Bayston
B Feature 1 (20 Laps, 6 Transfer): 1. Sammy Swindell; 2. Tracy Hines; 3. Tanner Thorson; 4. Ryan Robinson; 5. Logan Seavey; 6. Ryan Bernal;
B Feature 2: 1. Caleb Armstrong; 2. Giovanni Scelzi; 3. Tom Harris; 4. Chris Windom; 5. Billy Pauch Jr.; 6. Chad Boat;
C Feature 1 (15 Laps, 6 Transfer): 1. David Gravel; 2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; 3. Michael Pickens; 4. Daryn Pittman; 5. D.J. Netto; 6. Alex Bright;
C Feature 2: 1. Tanner Thorson ; 2. Justin Allgaier; 3. Ace McCarthy; 4. Zac Daum; 5. Brady Bacon; 6. CJ Leary
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