TULSA, Okla. — For the second year in a row, Christopher Bell made the Sooner State faithful a proud pack of race fans during the finale to the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
Bell took advantage of Kyle Larson’s misfortune to become a back-to-back Chili Bowl champion on Saturday night at the Tulsa Expo Center.
The 23-year-old from Norman, Okla., took the lead when Larson’s motor went sour on lap 42 of the 55-lap finale event and cruised the rest of the distance, beating Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teammate and two-time Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu to the checkered flag by 3.162 seconds.
In winning the race again, Bell completed a calendar year that has included bookend Chili Bowl wins, five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories, a Truck Series championship, a NASCAR XFINITY Series win and an ARCA win as part of what he’s repeatedly referred to as “a dream season.”
He has now won 12 of the last 15 national midget races he has competed in, and Friday night marked his 46th-career victory in the division.
“To win the Chili Bowl last year is something that I’ll never forget,” Bell said. “To be able to do it back-to-back is something that I’m just speechless for.
“Man, honestly, I’m really bummed about Kyle, because I thought we were going to have a really good race there. I don’t know when his motor started laying down, but I started making up time on him. I followed him for three or four laps, and I could tell that it was struggling. That was really hard.”
“I hate it for Kyle, man. I wanted to race that one out.”
Larson led the field to the green flag from the pole and took off early on the bottom of the race track, but the real story early was rookie Gio Scelzi, who was the only first-timer to transfer into the big show and charged from 16th to 11th in the first four laps with a huge run of momentum.
However, Scelzi’s night went sour with a mechanical issue working lap 10, stalling him out and ending a stellar Chili Bowl run for the 16-year-old Californian.
The restart allowed Bell to make his first charge to the point, as he sailed around Larson’s outside entering turn three as Larson made a mistake on the bottom, taking the lead before a spinning Shane Golobic drew the second yellow of the night on the 12th round.