Clauson Rules Night One In Tulsa

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Bryan Clauson (center) won the opening night of the 25th annual Chili Bowl Nationals. He shares the podium with Michael Pickens (right) and Jon Stanbrough. (Tim Aylwin photo).
Bryan Clauson (center) won the opening night of the 25th annual Chili Bowl Nationals. He shares the podium with Michael Pickens (right) and Jon Stanbrough. (Tim Aylwin photo).

TULSA, Okla. — Only 21 years old, Bryan Clauson has already topped nearly every major midget racing event. About the only trophy missing from his mantel is a Golden Driller from the Chili Bowl Nationals.

Clauson put himself in prime contention to claim one of those coveted Golden Drillers by racing to victory in Tuesday night’s 25-lap Warren CAT Qualifying event to kick off the 25th anniversary of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway.

“It’s awesome. This place has kind of had my number over the six or seven years I’ve been here,” Clauson explained. “It’s frustrating to go about anywhere else in the country and feel like we’re the dominant car and then come here and struggle like we’ve done in the past.”

There were no struggles on Tuesday night, as after posting heat and qualifying race wins Clauson swept past New Zealand’s Michael Pickens for second on the fourth round of the quarter-mile dirt track and led the rest of the way aboard the Corey Tucker Racing/Mike Curb Esslinger-powered NOS Energy Drink/Curb Records No. 39c Spike to lock into his second career Chili Bowl championship finale after a fourth-place run in 2008.

“This year we were finally able to stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes,” Clauson stated. “Really, what it comes down to, I did my job this year.”

Pickens held the runner-up slot the rest of the way to secure a spot in the Saturday finale for the third time in as many Chili Bowl efforts, with Indiana sprint-car ace Jon Stanbrough fending off some bids for the third and final lock-in position to what will be his sixth Saturday finale.

Jonathan Beason and Brad Kuhn rounded out the top five.

While Clauson took top honors over the night’s 65-car field, it was Sammy Swindell taking his second Vacuworx International Race of Champions victory in three tries with a wire-to-wire run over Dave Darland Jason Leffler.