After a mediocre Tulsa Shootout, Cannon McIntosh had to regain his mojo.
On Monday night, he did that in epic fashion at Tulsa Expo Raceway. For the second straight year, McIntosh held off former USAC Midget champ Tyler Courtney to win his Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary night.
McIntosh remained calm over the final two restarts, and with a masterful move to the bottom in Turns 3 and 4 in the No. 71K Keith Kunz Bullet/Toyota, held the point for the win.
"I really didn't think I was going to be able to do it again, but you just have to believe,” McIntosh said. “As the night went on, I started to believe more and more that I could do it and just told myself to be patient and be consistent, and that's what it took to win.”
Patience paid off for the 17-year-old from Bixby, Okla. With a full season of USAC midget racing peppered with plenty of POWRi seat time with Keith Kunz Motorsports, McIntosh is better prepared entering the 35th Chili Bowl Nationals. He gained a late-season push by winning two of three September events at Sweet Springs (Mo.) and then Gas City (Ind.) two races later.
McIntosh is hoping to improve on last year’s Chili Bowl experience, when he became the youngest driver to finish on the podium for Saturday night’s A-Main, finishing third behind winner Kyle Larson and three-time golden driller recipient Christopher Bell.
“It boosted my confidence, for sure,” McIntosh said of his 2020 Chili Bowl run. “Usually when you do something like that and you don’t expect to do it, it’s a huge confidence booster, and it turns everything around for you.
“It helped a lot. It changed my way of thinking—and obviously put me in the best ride I could have been in this year. It lined a lot of things up for me, and now I have the Chili Bowl to set up this coming year again.”
McIntosh is one of the talented young Sooner State drivers recruited by Toyota Racing Development. In 2019, he made his CBN debut driving for his father at Dave Mac Racing. He finished fifth in the Wednesday night feature behind Rico Abreu, David Gravel, Cole Bodine and Jake Swanson.
But moving to KKM in 2020 was a game-changer for the racer.
“It’s definitely cooler to be on a development team like that,” McIntosh said of Kunz’s juggernaut. “Obviously, my dad’s team is kind of following their footsteps a little bit. It’s still a young team, so there’s a lot of work left to do.
“But being able to go into that building with Keith’s team is cool. You can see how the years of experience they have goes into it. I’m excited to be entering my second year in a row with them. We’ll see what we can do.”
McIntosh is well aware of the depth of this year’s field. From the time he was in grade school, he has attended the Chili Bowl with his father and brother Jace, initially watching the exploits with the rowdies on the backstretch. And each year the drivers seem more poised to tackle the establishment.
In the KKM pits alone, McIntosh will compete against his veteran teammate Abreu, who won back-to-back drillers in 2015-2016, double Tulsa Shootout driller winner Brian Carber and USAC rookie-of-the-year Buddy Kofoid—who beat Larson in Bakersfield in November en route to a 10-win season (USAC and POWRi.combined).
“It’s a lot more challenging when you know you have really fast teammates that can get the job done,” McIntosh said. “It makes you step up your game, because you always want to beat your teammates. It’s cool to be able to lean on each other with a big team like that. You want them to do well, but you always want to beat your teammates. That’s just how it is.
“I think it’s the hardest the Chili Bowl has ever been. It doesn’t get much better than this. The competition is there, so it’s on you to do the best that you can to beat the best of the best because I don’t ever think the Chili Bowl has ever been on this level. There’s always been those fast few, but now, there are so many guys that can contend for the win so it will definitely be a challenge.”
And if he should break through and win the golden driller?
“I don't think I could put it into words,” McIntosh said. “If it happens, maybe I could tell you then. But I don’t know what I would do, honestly. It would be pretty awesome because it’s my biggest bucket list item, for sure.
“It’s a feeling like no other, being in that building and chasing the driller. I just can’t wait.”