TULSA, Okla. – After heartbreak earlier in the week, home state favorite Jason McDougal is primed to make a run at the Rich Vogler Hard Charger Award during championship day at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
McDougal, from Broken Arrow, Okla., struggled to accrue passing points during his heat race Thursday night and was relegated to a C Main as a result in the Klatt Enterprises No. 4b.
He won that 12-lap C Main from the pole, then started 13th in a B Main and steamrolled to the front of the field, taking the lead after 11 of the 15 laps and appearing to be in prime position to make the Thursday feature.
A caution with three to go, however, changed all that in a flash.
As the pace was slowed following a flip by Matt Linder, McDougal suddenly slowed to a stop with no power aboard his car. Pounding the steering wheel in frustration, McDougal was pushed back to the pit area as the building went silent in shock.
His run was over; his attempt at salvaging a disastrous night thwarted.
Even afterward, crew chief Brad Noffsinger said he and the Klatt Enterprises crew were unsure of the reason McDougal’s entry suddenly gave up the ghost Thursday night.
“We have no idea what happened,” Noffsinger noted. “We were just as shocked as Jason was. He was on the move, man. You hate to see this happen after the run that he had going.”
Added legendary crew chief and car builder Bob East, “We replaced everything on that car. Since we couldn’t find what was wrong, we just changed everything, and you hope that does what you need it to do. He’s a heck of a driver; we just want to give him a chance to go forward Saturday.”
Going forward is exactly what McDougal will have to try and do, considering his mechanical woes caused him to drop through the provisional alphabet like a rock. He went from what would have been no worse than an E Main to starting fourth in the first I Main for Lucas Oil Championship Day.
It’s a tall task to try and charge through the soup, but McDougal will have $1,500 of motivation in front of him to do so.
That is part of the reward that comes along with Vogler Hard Charger honors, bestowed annually at the Chili Bowl to the driver who advances the most combined positions across all the Saturday features.
Past recipients of the award include Ken Schrader, Jack Hewitt, Sammy Swindell, Michael Pickens, Brady Bacon, Cole Whitt, Chase Briscoe, Thomas Meseraull, Ryan Bernal, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clinton Boyles.
West Virginia’s Cale Conley was last year’s Vogler Hard Charger, passing 43 cars as he moved from an I Main – where McDougal starts from Saturday – all the way up to an E Main.
But McDougal isn’t necessarily focused on awards or recognition. He just wants to perform, even if making the A Main Saturday night is the longest of long shots.
“We just want to show that the speed we had Thursday night wasn’t a fluke,” he said.
Another potential favorite for the Rich Vogler Hard Charger Award is NASCAR Xfinity Series star Justin Allgaier, who flipped in his A Qualifier Friday night and then struggled further in his B Main before eventually failing to transfer. He’ll be in the second I Main.
Feature racing at the River Spirit Expo Center on Chili Bowl Saturday begins at 10 a.m. CT.
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