TULSA, Okla. — Almost two years to the day after the death of his friend and former teammate, Donnie Ray Crawford, Jonathan Beason dedicated his Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary night victory to his memory, having pushed the Hard 8 Racing No. 8j to his first Chili Bowl triumph during Tuesday’s Warren CAT Qualifier.
Accumulating the highest combined passing points through heats and qualifiers, Beason earned the pole for the 25-lap affair; never relinquishing the point even as Zach Daum and Alex Bright pursued the Oklahoma shoe through heavy lapped traffic during the closing laps.
Asked about his level of nervousness getting through the feature, Beason replied, “I was really worried. I race 10 times a year now. This was my second midget race this, well, I guess this would be my first one this year. I haven’t really dealt with lapped traffic like these guys have. I was worried, but thankfully I saw their noses a couple of times, but I figured lapped cars were going to be in their way too.”
Taking a shot at the lead before the 10th round, Alex Bright settled back in line before relinquishing the runner-up spot to Daum on lap 10.
Trading blows for second, Daum and Bright never allowed Beason to gain a sizable advantage as traffic kept the race for the lead tight on the quarter-mile dirt track. Trying for the inside pass as laps waned, Daum’s attempt was foiled as the high line cleared, allowing Beason to win by 0.852 seconds.
“I wasn’t going throw nothing stupid at him,” said Daum. “I could’ve thrown a slide job, but as slick as the track was, it was going to crash both of us. There was no reason to do that. We just wanted to lock ourselves in the show and that’s what we did.”
Bright earned the final transfer into Saturday’s 55-lap championship event.
“I never expected to make the A-Main this year, but I did think I would get into the prelim night feature,” he said. “To be locked in is quite amazing and hopefully we can move forward in the A-Main.”
Gary Taylor came from seventh to fourth with Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions winner, Kyle Larson, advancing 11 spots to complete the top five after engine problems gridded the No. 71k 16th.
Of the 70 scheduled drivers from Tuesday’s Warren CAT Qualifying night, 69 made the call. A pair of Chili Bowl rookies earned staring spots in the A-Feature. Jeb Sessums finished 14th after starting 22nd. Australia’s Mathew Smith ended up 22nd after starting 14th.