TULSA, Oklahoma – Logan Seavey hugged the bottom groove in the closing laps of the Chili Bowl and survived a green-white-checkered finish to win his first Golden Driller trophy in the race’s 37th running. He became the second first-time winner in the last two years, holding off the 2022 champion Tanner Thorson and Cannon McIntosh, another young driver looking for his first win.
By Dan Beaver, NBC Sports
In four previous A-Main appearances, he finished in the top five only once.
“I’ll let you know tomorrow [how it feels],” Seavey said after the race. “For right now, it feels awesome.
“It didn’t set in until I got the driller and I could talk to Kevin [Swindell] for a little bit. I’m just so happy to do it for Kevin. He deserves it and you know, he probably have a lot more, it wasn’t for his accident. It means a lot to win this race in general. But doing it in the No. 39 in our first Friday (in my preliminary night win) is really cool.”
Swindell sustained back and neck injuries in a crash in the 2015 Knoxville Nationals. Swindell owns four Golden Drillers as a driver, but this is his first as a car owner.
Seavey was challenged for the lead midway through the race when Oklahoma native McIntosh wrestled the top spot from him on Lap 21. Seavey was patient, knowing 55 laps on a quarter-mile track was long enough for him to catch McIntosh, and when a caution waved midrace, he had an opportunity to pounce and passed McIntosh for the final time on Lap 31.
Seavey’s previous best finish in four A-Mains was fourth in 2020.
Toward the end of the race, the track glazed over and took a lot of rubber, essentially turning it into a one-groove racetrack.
When asked on the podium what he needed to win, Thorson replied “a better racetrack,” after he was forced to run in Seavey’s tire tracks for most of the second half of the race.
“Did everybody’s car feel bad?,” Thorson asked winner Seavey and third-place McIntosh “Even the night I won, I felt terrible.”
Thorson locked into Saturday’s A-Main with a win in Thursday night’s qualification race.
With passing on the track made difficult by the conditions, Thorson’s only opportunity would have been to use his bumper to move Seavey out of the groove.
“I wasn’t going to dump him because I didn’t want to obviously wreck him – and I didn’t want to get sent to the back. But I got into the middle and caught a little bit of rubber and got a good run on him. I definitely got in the back when I was trying to get him up off the bottom to get underneath him.
“I got close to him one time and just tried that one time. Coming to the end, if I had another shot at him – no offense, Logan, but I probably would’ve done it again.”
Seavey jokingly replied he was surprised he didn’t try that maneuver more often.
While he failed to win his first Saturday Main, McIntosh kept a perfect record of top-five finishes alive with his podium finish, equaling a previous-best of . McIntosh tried to take the highline before the rubber came in, but each time he began to develop momentum, a caution waved.
“It’s frustrating, you know, after leading probably at least 10 laps there,” McIntosh said. “Getting the lead first, I got right to Logan on the bottom. I went to the top in [Turns] 3 and 4 and got right to him and I think he saw my nose or heard me and moved up in 1 and 2 and I hadn’t even tried it yet down there. He was able to make speed and we kind of went back and forth for a second. I don’t think he had figured out how low I was running in 3 and 4 yet and I was able to sneak by just kind of through the middle.
“I’m sure that’s when he started to make adjustments. I felt really good probably through in the middle of the race there – and when I got to traffic, I was just in a good rhythm and felt like I was in the zone.”
With the exception of Thorson, the remainder of the top five each scored or matched a career-best in the Chili Bowl.
Shane Golobic finished fourth after scoring a seventh in 2012, which was his only top-10 in nine A Mains.
Emerson Axsom rounded out the top five in his first appearance.
Rico Abreu was part of the battle for the top five in the early laps until he was pushed back in traffic on a late restart. His fortune turned worse on the final lap when he brought out the final caution of the night as the two leaders were exiting Turn 4.
Jade Avedisian, who was battling for a top-10 in the closing laps, lost ground at the end and finished 18th and won the first ever award for being the highest finishing female in the race. She was also the top rookie.
Chase Briscoe had the best night among current NASCAR and IndyCar drivers. He started seventh in one of two B-Mains and finished 10th.
Alex Bowman started the day’s events in the E-Main and finished fifth and advanced to the D. His day ended with a 17th-place finish there.
JJ Yeley finished 13th in the C-Main.
Carson Hocevar and Santino Ferrucci of Woodbury, CT finished sixth in their G-Main, narrowly missing the advancement position of fifth.
Josh Bilicki finished 14th in the J-Main.
The 2023 Chili Bowl was also marked by a terrifying crash involving rookie Ashton Torgerson, who was thrown from his car in a crash Wednesday night. He suffered a head injury in the accident, but addressed the media on Saturday.
Photo: Logan Seavey, Instagram