TULSA, Okla. – Ending a frustrating six-year drought, Brady Bacon finally found his way back into the finale of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals by locking in during Monday’s Cummins Qualifying Night.
Bacon raced forward from fifth on the grid and put together a thrilling late-race charge, rolling the outside to storm past Brad Sweet coming to two laps to go and hanging on to finish second in the 25-lap preliminary A-main.
Where as in years past, the top three would have moved directly to Saturday’s championship feature, this year Bacon was the last man in thanks to a format change and the addition of Monday’s fifth preliminary night.
Bacon wasn’t worried about those details, however. He was just glad to be back in the big show at last. His last Saturday A-main start came in 2013, when he finished 22nd.
“Man, this is a relief and this means a lot, for sure,” Bacon smiled. “This race has always been kind of a curse for me. I grew up 25 minutes from here, and it’s one of the most important races of the year for me. I’ve always had really good luck at the Shootout and ran really good there, but I could never catch a break here. It’s just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders to get through this night without any misfortune and lock in to Saturday.
“Last year we had a really good car, flipped coming to the checkered in the qualifier and hung it in the fence,” Bacon recalled. “It always seemed to be something that bit me, but now we’re back and we have a shot. If you make the feature, anyone can get it done from any spot in 55 laps.”
The Broken Arrow, Okla., native and two-time AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series champion worked traffic effortlessly in the early going, finding himself third by the halfway point, but he wasn’t able to make a ton of ground on Sweet until he started changing things up a bit in the closing stages.
“We were there, but finally I just got a good enough run off (turn) 2 from the bottom that I was able to slide up in front of him going into (turn) three and hold on from there,” Bacon noted.
This week is notable for Bacon, who is making his final start as the lead driver for Frank Manafort Racing before stepping back to a part-time role this season and turning his seat over to C.J. Leary, who will run for the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series championship with Manafort.
In spite of that, Bacon said he’s treating this race like any other race he’s run in the past and doesn’t feel any added pressure or motivation just because he’s moving into a different role with the team.
“This race means more to me as a race than any one specific team,” Bacon noted. “I’m glad that this package we have with Toyota and Beast … we just seem to step up for the big races and perform.
“Hopefully this weekend, we can continue that trend and get the Chili Bowl crossed off the list.”
SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2019 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com. All of SPEED SPORT’s Live From The Chili Bowl presented by MyRacePass coverage can be found by clicking here.
Watch The Chili Bowl Live: The Chili Bowl will be shown live online on www.racinboys.com. The online PPV experience will run from Monday through Saturday’s qualifiers. At the time of opening ceremonies (6 p.m. local time) on Saturday, Racinboys PPV coverage will cease as the final features will be shown live on MAVTV (more information here).