Chili Bowl Belongs To Clauson
TULSA, Okla. — Many-time USAC champion Bryan Clauson finally earned his first Golden Driller trophy Saturday night, topping the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“I’m just really relieved I didn’t throw it away because these guys are really good,” said Clauson.“I said it last night in the press conference that I felt like I had a car that could compete for the win tonight from the time we unloaded the car. It was really going to be a matter of not burying ourselves.”
Jumping to second on the start, Clauson pursued Caleb Armstrong for the lead early on.
Looking low on the fourth round of the quarter-mile dirt track with no success, Clauson regrouped with an inside line pass the following lap. Leaving Armstrong to contend with Christopher Bell, the driver of the Keith Kunz No. 97 continually worked the inside line, looking for a hole to squeeze through, but to no avail.
The first yellow flag during the 55-lap event came on lap 13 when Thomas Meseraull stopped with engine problems. Damion Gardner flipped on the restart.
Racing to second on the restart, Bell began working high as the cushion began coming to life.
Losing third to Jonathan Beason on lap 18, Armstrong began feeling the pressure from Sammy Swindell. A four-car race for the podium step between Beason, Armstrong, Swindell, and 15th-starting Kyle Larson, things took a turn as the field worked on the 25th lap.
Looking low on Swindell entering the back straightaway, Larson and Sammy tangled with Larson’s No. 71k climbing the left side tires of Swindell, sending the California driver nose down on the left front, as Swindell’s car cut hard to the left, putting the No. 1 into the infield.
Larson held sixth, but his race ended with engine failure on lap 29.
After transferring from a B-Feature, four-time defending Chili Bowl winner Kevin Swindell cracked the top 10 on lap 17 and was fifth when Larson’s engine let go.
Moving around the racing surface, K. Swindell passed Armstrong for fourth on a lap-30 restart and took third from Beason on the following lap.
Going for the slide job on Bell on lap 38, Bell countered and blocked the next charge.
The yellow flag waved again with 12 laps remaining.
Rolling high on Bell for second, Swindell opened the inside line for Rico Abreu. Swapping the final podium step over the next few laps, Swindell gained the advantage over Abreu, who spun on lap 48.
Glued to Bell on the restart, it was slide jobs in every corner with Bell driving back under Swindell after every attempt.
A caution flag for Jerry Coons Jr., who flipped with seven laps to go, saw Clauson pull away again on the restart as the battle for second raged. Driving deep into the third turn on lap 48, K. Swindell pitched for the slide with the two running out of real-estate and nearly stalling on the track before finally getting back to speed.
Given a sizable advantage with laps going away, Clauson’s advantage was 1.556 seconds at the checkered flag. Swindell’s performance from 14th made him the Excel Therapy Hard Charger of the Week, advancing 49 spots on the track. Christopher Bell crossing third marks his best performance in the Chili Bowl.
Pennsylvania’s Alex Bright advance from 12th to fourth with 10th-starting Dave Darland completing the top five.
The 28th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire saw the record for driver attendance tied at 281 set in 2009. Saturday’s alphabet saw the longest streak of advances at three with Brent Beauchamp, J.J. Yeley, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Seth Motsinger each advancing through three features.