TULSA, Okla. – Leaving the River Spirit Expo Center on Friday night, the unasked question swirling around the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals pit area was if a coil-bound midget could win the event.
The debate between using a torsion bar setup versus a coil-bound setup in the rear suspension of a national midget was thrust into the limelight after Tanner Thorson went on a winning run with a coil car.
Thorson earned four victories with Hayward Motorsports on the USAC trail last year, utilizing the coil-bound setup that he’d found a strong level of comfort with to blaze a unique path.
When he left Brodie Hayward’s team mid-season and went over to Tom Malloy’s No. 25 to finish out the schedule, Thorson brought his coil knowledge with him, and the results were the same – if not better.
Over the final nine USAC races last year, the Thorson-Malloy pairing finished no worse than seventh and earned three feature victories. Though Thorson quickly departed and moved to Dave Mac Motorsports for this season, his desire to continue beating the coil drum remained strong.
Thorson and the Dave McIntosh-led team brought a coil-bound car to the Chili Bowl hoping that some of the things the Minden, Nev., driver learned from his previous teams would lead to Tulsa success.
Quickly on Friday, however, Thorson and company learned that wasn’t the case – at least for them.
Thorson flipped in his heat race and was relegated to a C Main as a result, with a battered No. 08 Spike-Toyota that required repairs in order to continue. As Thorson and his team repaired the car, he decided that it was time to go back to a proven modicum of Chili Bowl success.
He took the coils off his car and returned to the torsion bar setup that won him the Friday preliminary night feature last January, promptly driving through both the C and B Mains to make the 30-lap A Main.
Once he tagged the tail of the feature, Thorson powered through traffic to a fourth-place finish, an admirable effort that salvaged his week and slotted him into a B Main before Saturday night’s finale.
However, all that flair wasn’t with his tried-and-true coil package, something Thorson was quick to point out when he spoke to the media after Friday night’s racing wrapped up.
“After I flipped, we went back to bars in the rear, mostly due to just experience here,” Thorson said. “Having never run coils here, I felt like we were just behind the 8-ball a little bit. There’s just so much to coils and being successful running them, and race tracks and stuff pertain to a lot of that. It just comes down to driver preference, for the most part, as far as what feels comfortable and stable to run.
“We had a really fast car, but we were fast when we went back to my standard Chili Bowl plan of attack as well,” Thorson added. “As soon as I flipped, I knew I needed to get off the coils and get back to what I know works here. I think I showed that was the right move with how I came up through there.”
In digging deeper and explaining some of the nuances between a bar setup versus its coil counterpart, Thorson’s features lit up as his mechanical knowledge came to the forefront.
“Bars and coils react differently; you run coils up front in these cars, so when you’re running them it’s somewhat of a no-brainer to run coils in the back, just so you can keep the reaction of the car the same,” explained Thorson. “Some drivers like the different feel and others don’t, but part of it comes down to the race track you’re running the coils at as much as anything else in order to make speed.”
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