TULSA, Okla. – Thursday night featured a case of déjà vu inside the River Spirit Expo Center, as Christopher Bell generated a very familiar result during Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals week.
For the fifth consecutive year, Bell roared to victory during John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night, winning his heat race, qualifier and the main event for a statement performance.
Though he started sixth, Bell wasted little time in clawing his way to second behind Thomas Meseraull, then dogged Meseraull through lap traffic before sliding past the Indiana veteran with 11 laps complete.
After that, Bell was lights out, racing away to an easy victory while Meseraull, Buddy Kofoid and Logan Seavey all diced for the runner-up position behind him.
Thursday night was Bell’s sixth overall Chili Bowl preliminary night victory, but his first with Tucker-Boat Motorsports, where he moved during the offseason after many years in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports stable.
“That was about as fun as gets right there! I freaking love this place; the way the track was … you could run anywhere and it was just so much fun,” Bell said. “I knew when the prelim nights were posted that this night was going to be tough. T-Mez is really fast and Kofoid is a great race car driver; I have a feeling next year that Kofoid won’t be that easy to pass.”
Though much of the night was caution-laden, the 30-lap feature was slowed by caution only once, when Shane Cottle and Cole Bodine went around in turn three on lap four and stalled in the top groove.
As easy as Bell made winning Thursday’s feature look, it almost all came apart coming to the white flag, as Bell made significant contact with the slower car of Dave Darland that nearly ended in disaster.
“That startled me pretty bad,” Bell noted. “I kind of floated the middle, and I was looking out the right side to where I thought he gave it to me, and he didn’t give it to me. I’m just glad it didn’t cost us.”
Meseraull’s runner-up finish was enough to secure him into the A-main for RMS Racing, the second-year team that has made plenty of waves all week long at the Chili Bowl.
No more had he taken the checkered flag and spoken on the Racinboys pay-per-view broadcast, than Meseraull had to bolt from the building to head back to his home in Indianapolis for a family situation, but he was thrilled to find himself secured in the main event for the third time in his career.
“I’ve got some family problems back home; I’ve got to leave right now to go back to Indy and I don’t know how I’m going to get back,” said Meseraull, who led laps three through 11 on Thursday night. “That’s just part of my life, though. I’m excited to be here. I’m in some best stuff in the pits, and it shows. We’ve been running up front all week. I like to think I do a good job; we’ve just been strong and I’m pleased with how everything has gone so far.
“I’m just here trying to pay my bills and I’m excited to be up here and make a little money to do that.”
Eighteen-year-old Kofoid, making his Chili Bowl debut with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, completed the podium and put together one of the most impressive rookie performances on a Chili Bowl preliminary night in recent memory.
While he was disappointed to not lock in to the Saturday finale, Kofoid was still all smiles about what he and his team were able to accomplish on arguably the toughest qualifying night of the entire week.
“This is the start of opportunities that I never thought would be possible. Sitting next to a guy like Christopher on my prelim night is incredible,” Kofoid said. “It’s not a lock in spot, but finishing third in my first preliminary night at the Chili Bowl is amazing and just a testament to the hard work my KKM guys have put in. They’ve done everything to give me a great race car this week and it showed tonight.”
Logan Seavey crossed fourth in the Swindell SpeedLab No. 39, while polesitter Shane Golobic completed the top five after leading the first two laps to begin the main event.
Hard charger Spencer Bayston rolled from 15th to finish sixth, followed by C.J. Leary, Jason McDougal, Jerry Coons Jr. and Steve Buckwalter.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
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