2022 Chili Bowl Wrap-up and Results

Tanner Thorson outdueled Christopher Bell to win the 36th annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

Bell led the opening 36 of 55 laps in the No, 71W Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota. However, repeated pressure by Thorson paid off as he completed the pass through Turns 1 and 2 on lap 37.

Thorson’s No.19T Reinbold Underwood Motorsports Stanton remained under threat from Bell, but managed to hold a gap and navigate the tricky surface of the quarter-mile track inside the Tulsa Expo Center to win 0.6885s and collect his first-ever Golden Driller trophy.

“I just knew it was late in the race,” Thorson said. “They came over to the radio and, and said how many laps were down, just like Turkey Night. I knew I had to break Bell’s momentum a little bit there at Paris (Auto Speedway) and same thing here. I knew I needed to break his momentum. And if not, it was gonna be hard to beat him once we got going green for a lot of laps.

“I just knew I needed to get going. Buddy (Kofoid) was there, pressuring me a little bit. My car seemed to get better and better throughout the run, and it was kind of getting the racetrack with the fuel load burning off. What I learned on Thursday night, I played into the factor tonight and it helped.”

Denied a fourth victory in the event after winning the Pole Shuffle, Bell finished runner-up, ahead of teammate Rico Abreu.

“Tonight, I feel like I probably lost the race because Tanner was in second and searched around a little bit better than I did,” Bell said. “But, at the beginning of the race was extremely stressful. Whenever the track was really wet and we caught lap traffic and Tanner was inside me four or five times, I didn’t want to get off the bottom and nobody in front of us was off the bottom. You know, it’s the Chill Bowl; it’s the 24 best Midgets in the world, so the guy that’s running 24th, isn’t going to slide up and make a mistake. I just was trying to be patient. And I knew if I couldn’t pass the lap car, he was going to have a hard time passing me. I was relieved once the yellow came out and we got out of traffic and kind of got me a break again.

“Then, I knew the track would widen out and get a lot better for me. So, you know, the second round of lap traffic, once I started sliding guys — I felt pretty confident about it. And then, yeah, got really slick right beneath the cushion. I could tell that I was really starting to slow down my mid-corner speed in (Turns) 3 and 4 so that I didn’t get tight against the cushion. The thought came across my mind to start trying to pick up the middle off of (Turn) 4 and Tanner beat me to it.”

Thorson’s win also put Stanton in victory lane, snapping Toyota’s seven-year stranglehold.

Abreu, a two-time champion of the Chili Bowl, had one of the more eventful races and was in the thick of the action. He battled back from early passes by Kofoid and Larson, and found himself ready to pounce on the top two by the end of it.

“I didn’t want to be the last guy to the top and get beat,” said Abreu, driver of the No. 97 KKM Toyota. “I felt like I was probably one of the first guys and I let Buddy go by. And then, I got tight a few times to let Kyle go by, and then worked those guys backed over to just to be there to their inside if they made a mistake, which allowed me to get to third. You know, I could really work the bottom in (Turns) 3 and 4 and I was able to maintain that pace at the end of the race.

“I thought 10 more laps, you ask for 10 more lap and there’s different outcomes. So, I was kind of waiting for Christopher to kind of break Tanner’s momentum again, and then maybe I could have just squirted off the bottom by both of them. But it was an unbelievable track. I thought at the end where you can move around the top got difficult to run, which we all expected. It was a good race, I thought.

Kofoid and Tanner Carrick rounded out the rest of the top five. Defending two-time Chili Bowl champion Kyle Larson ended up sixth, ahead of CJ Leary, Kevin Thomas Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Thomas Meseraull.

Other notables include last year’s runner-up Justin Grant, who rebounded from a mid-race crash after contact with Larson to finish 16th. After winning her B-Feature and becoming the first-ever female to make the main event, Kaylee Bryson finished 18th.

A-Feature results (55 laps)[starting position]:

1. 19T-Tanner Thorson [2]; 2. 71W-Christopher Bell [1]; 3. 97-Rico Abreu [3]; 4. 67-Michael Kofoid [5]; 5. 98-Tanner Carrick [6]; 6. 01-Kyle Larson [7]; 7. 55V-CJ Leary[16]; 8. 5T-Kevin Thomas Jr [8]; 9. 47S-Ricky Stenhouse Jr [10]; 10. 7X-Thomas Meseraull[13]; 11. 7C-Tyler Courtney [9]; 12. 52-Blake Hahn [14]; 13. 17W-Shane Golobic [18]; 14. 89-Chris Windom [17]; 15. 97W-Zeb Wise [11]; 16. 2J-Justin Grant [4]; 17. 47Z-Corey Day [20]; 18. 71K-Kaylee Bryson [12]; 19. 29-Tim Buckwalter [21]; 20. 8J-Jonathan Beason [24]; 21. 27W-Colby Copeland [15]; 22. 81X-Dillon Welch [22]; 23. (DNF) 87-Chase Johnson [19]; 24. (DNF) 21H-Brady Bacon [23]

Lap Leaders: Christopher Bell 1-36; Tanner Thorson 37-55
Hard Charger: C.J. Leary +9

(article by Joey Barnes)

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