TULSA, Okla. – During driver introductions for the 2019 Chili Bowl Nationals, polesitter Logan held up a sign that read “No 3-peat.”
A determined Kyle Larson took the lead from Seavey on Lap 21 of the main event and held the top spot until the final lap.
But neither Seavey’s pre-race prediction nor Larson’s excellent run could prevent Oklahoma favorite son Christopher Bell from winning his third straight Chili Bowl A-Main. And this victory was his most dramatic.
In the closing circuits of the 55-lap event, Larson caught traffic, with Bell chasing and closing. On the final lap, Bell slipped underneath Larson in Turns 1 and 2, pulled ahead on the backstretch and beat Larson to the finish line, frustrating Larson once again in his attempt to win the Super Bowl of midget racing.
With three straight Chili Bowl wins to his credit, Bell will have the opportunity to match Kevin Swindell’s record four straight victories next year.
“I’ll tell you what—I don’t think it gets any better than that there,” Bell said after climbing from his No. 71w Keith Kunz Motorsports race car. “That’s why we love the Chili Bowl. It always surprises me. It never disappoints. I hope you guys loved that one.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get there. I kept struggling and struggling… I just committed myself to the bottom, because I didn’t have anything to lose. It was pretty slick down there, and Kyle tried to stick it on the last lap, but he hadn’t run any laps down there, and I knew what I needed to do to get in the infield there and try to stick it and get off the corner good.
“He (Larson) was half a car too high, and that was all I needed there.”
Barely more than a tenth of a mile from winning his first Golden Driller trophy, Larson couldn’t hide his disappointment with the outcome.
“I knew my pace would slow down, and I knew he was going to get close,” Larson said. “I missed my marks just a couple of times throughout the race—but when it counted. And he was there to pounce. I hate that I gave that one away, but it’s good to race for a win like that, just try not to make mistakes.
“He obviously doesn’t make any.”
Justin Grant ran third, followed by Brady Bacon and Zach Daum. Tyler Courtney came home sixth as the highest finisher to advance through a B-Main to the title race. Brad Sweet, C.J. Leary, Seavey and Tanner Thorson completed the top 10.
The victory was the fifth straight for team owner Keith Kunz, who prepares the cars for both Bell and Larson (though Larson’s father is his team owner at the Chili Bowl).
“I didn’t see that coming,” Kunz said. “With about two laps to go, he (Bell) was about a second behind. No, I didn’t see that coming at all.”
But when Larson missed his marks in Turns 3 and 4 coming to the white flag, Bell closed quickly, and Larson’s failure to stick the bottom on the final lap proved decisive.
“I ran 53 and a half good laps,” Larson said ruefully. “I just didn’t close it out.”