TULSA, Okla. – Zeb Wise’s first day at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals as a driver was every bit as much a valuable learning experience as it was a roller-coaster ride.

Wise started out strong, winning his heat race from fourth and appearing to be a threat to contend at the front of the preliminary A-main, but a skirmish with Jake Neuman in his qualifier relegated Wise to a B-main and forced him to rally back after that.

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The 16-year-old from Angola, Ind., raced his way into Monday night’s feature by finishing third in the B – despite near-disaster after contact on the start with polesitter Tanner Carrick – then charged from 21st to finish eighth at the end of 25 laps.

While it wasn’t locking into Saturday’s big show like Wise had hoped, he did enough to place himself into one of the two B-mains that will fill the field for the 55-lap finale.

That was something Wise considered a win, with everything he went through during the night factored in.

“The Driven2SaveLives No. 39B was hooked up all night long,” said Wise, who was the hard charger for the night after advancing 13 positions. “We got off on a good note, but I made some mistakes and we had some bad luck in our qualifier and the B-main. We got into the feature, though, and got through the field just enough to earn the last B-main spot on Saturday.

“In my book, that’s a win. That gives us a chance. Now we just have to go and execute this weekend. This whole night taught me a lot that I’ll carry forward, for sure.”

– Much like Wise, rookie Tanner Carrick also saw a potential big night go by the wayside, stymied by the invert in his qualifier after being one of the highest points-earners from heat races earlier in the night.

Carrick started sixth and could barely get to fifth in his qualifier, but won the first of two B-mains to secure his place in the preliminary feature.

However, Carrick’s night came unraveled at halfway in the 25-lap main, when he was pushed out of the groove and flipped in turn one, relegating him to the back of the rundown and leaving him with a lot of work to do on Saturday evening.

“We had a fast car, but I just got outside of someone … he ran me out to the wall and I tipped it over, I guess,” Carrick lamented. “All I can do now is hope for better luck on Saturday. This definitely isn’t what we wanted after the day started so strong for us.”

Sweet Chili Bowl
Brad Sweet finished on the podium Monday night in Chili Bowl preliminary action. (Devin Mayo photo)

– Brad Sweet may be best known for his exploits with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, but Monday night he was back inside the Tulsa Expo Center and making noise in a midget once again.

Sweet ran inside the top five of his preliminary night feature and held a transfer spot into Saturday’s finale for most of the 25-lap distance, but couldn’t hold off Brady Bacon in the final laps.

Even still, Sweet carried a smile after the race and noted that he was excited to be back indoors racing for noted car owner and mechanic Rusty Kunz once again.

“I just think the Chili Bowl is kind of like a race of champions,” Sweet told SPEED SPORT. “A lot of different drivers are here racing representing a lot of different series. It’s in the winter, and obviously, it doesn’t conflict with a lot of what we’re doing, which is really good.

“It’s just a lot of fun. They give us a great race track each time we come here, and driving a great race car from Rusty Kunz never hurts either,” Sweet added. “If I couldn’t come here and be in something competitive, I’m not sure I would do it because you want to run well here and it’s so tight at the top.”

– Monday night’s program kicked off with hot laps at 4:30 p.m. local time, with the checkered flag waving over the A-main at 9:30 p.m. for a five-hour program that let fans get home at a decent hour.

Last year’s opening night festivities, which included three more heat races, a pair of D-mains, the Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions and 23 more entries in the starting field, wrapped up at 10:58 p.m. and the first night of the 2017 Chili Bowl concluded at 11:18 p.m.

That checks off one of Chili Bowl co-founder Emmett Hahn’s big reasons for adding the fifth preliminary night in the first place.

“We wanted to shorten things up for the fans and get them out of here at a decent hour,” Hahn noted during Monday’s opening press conference.

“Now, if I could only get them to lower the rent here, it would be a win-win for everyone!” he joked.

– The Fastenal Flip Count stands at five after the opening night of competition for this year’s Chili Bowl, with a few spectacular moments and one double-flip during the 25-lap main event on Monday.

It was Travis Young who received the unfortunate distinction of being the first driver to tumble, going end over end on the backstretch during the sixth heat race.

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).