TULSA, Okla. — Driving the Clauson-Marshall Racing No. 7bc, Tyler Courtney charged to his first Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals preliminary victory on the opening night of the 31st annual event inside the River Spirit Center Tuesday night.
While the win was a very emotional one for the entire Clauson-Marshall racing team, Courtney explained the win simply when asked to put it into words, “Two words. Parked It.
“Honestly, I think I’m still in shock. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. This is really cool with a new team, on the so called dream team that Bryan wanted to put together,” said Courtney, who also won the Junior Knepper 55 indoor midget race in December. “Bryan (Clauson) was the guy that gave me the opportunity seven years ago. He’s a big part of my career and plus, I got to win my first USAC National sprint Car race over him this summer during Sprint Week. That’s something that I’ll always have with me.”
Courtney, who earned the pole in Tuesday’s Warren CAT Qualifying Night A-Feature, battled the opening laps with Matt Sherrell before having to contend with the Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 71K of Kyle Larson, who won the Race of Champions later in the night.
Locked in a tight three way battle for the first six rotations around the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Courtney began putting distance between he and Larson. Keeping the No. 71k at length as the back of the field came into view, that distance was starting to dwindle as Larson worked the cushion at both ends of the quarter-mile track.
Bumper-to-bumper with 13 to go thanks to a caution for Tony Bruce Jr., Larson set up for the slide job. Denied the point, the Parker Stores entry quickly regained momentum. Low in one and two, high in three and four with 12 to go, the lead was Larson’s, but the caution would again blink on before the lap could be completed.
Returning with a barrage of slide jobs, Larson and Courtney used up every inch of the track. Working to the final eight laps, it was Larson off the fourth turn. Running hard to the cushion, the door was open for Courtney to retake the point off the second turn. Following the No. 7bc in on the turn-three cushion, Larson skipped four tires into the fluff. Trying to correct the mistake, Larson mashed the throttle, only to jettison the No. 71k skyward.
A hard landing and a hit to follow as Matt Westfall had nowhere to run. Despite the crash, both drivers returned to competition.
From there, Courtney ran away to a 2.775-second advantage over Larry Wight, who advanced from seventh to finish second.
“It’s pretty amazing for us to be able to come down here,” explained the big-block modified regular. “Shawn Michael, Mike Heffner, just the whole crew did an awesome job. We brought a brand new Chili Bowl car and it definitely paid off for us.”
Charging the final eight laps, Zach Daum advanced from 10th to the final transfer position.
“I put more pressure on myself than anybody,” Daum said. “I try to stay relaxed as much as I can. We spend a lot of money to come to this one race every year and you want to run good. That’s the main goal here. To make the show for one, and put yourself in position to go after a Driller. This is our Daytona. It’s our Indianapolis; this is the Mecca of a Midget races so there’s always a little bit of pressure, but you kind of try to rise to the pressure.”
A preliminary night winner one year ago, Pennsylvania’s Alex Bright came up just shy of the transfer with a run from 12th to fourth. Jonathan Beason rounded out the top five after starting ninth.
Tuesday’s opening of the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals saw 90 drivers drawing in for competition.
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