We’re four days down with one to go for all the preliminary action leading up to Saturday’s 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. A record setting 360 drivers showed up to Tulsa, Oklahoma in hopes of bringing home a Golden Driller trophy. In order to widdle it down from 360 to 24, you have to separate all the drivers to run a preliminary night.
They divided it all up for five nights of racing, with an A-Main feature run at the end of each night. The top two finishes in each of the five A-Mains, will automatically advance to the A-Main of the big show on Saturday night. For the other 350 drivers that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd in their night of racing, they all get grouped in “alphabet soup” for heat races on Saturday.
As you can see, the easiest path to the A-Main on Saturday night, is to win your preliminary night during the week. There’s 350 drivers on Saturday going for 14 available spots.
But, even if you’re among the 14, it’s going to be hard to be the 10 already locked in. I mean, as we sit here today, eight drivers are locked in and all eight are more than capable of winning the thing tomorrow.
On Monday night, young phenom Cannon McIntosh won in his No. 71k Toyota for Keith Kunz Motorsports. KKM has won this race in five straight years and while they lost Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Zeb Wise and Logan Seavey this offseason, McIntosh picked up where those greats left off.
On Tuesday night, it was Kyle Larson’s turn. He won the A-Main that evening to advance to his ninth career A-Main. The California native came home runner-up in last year’s race and has three top seven finishes in his last four tries.
On Wednesday night, Rico Abreu won in his No. 97 Toyota for KKM. Abreu, has seven prior starts in the main feature including scoring two wins (2015, 2016) and a runner-up (2018) in the last five years.
Then on Thursday night, Christopher Bell swept the evening and put his No. 84x entry into the main event on Saturday. Bell, is the three-time defending champion of the Chili Bowl and has four top three finishes in his last six starts at his home race.
Would you expect anyone else to have won the first four nights? Bell and Abreu have combined to win this race in each of the last five years while Larson is likely the third favorite. McIntosh can’t be ignored in a KKM car either.
Then, you have the second place finishers those nights advancing. Tyler Courtney (Monday) is the defending USAC National Midget Series champion. He’s made the A-Main in each of the last three years, finishing sixth in two of them. Jonathan Beason (Tuesday night) will make his sixth career Chili Bowl A-Main start. Colby Copeland (Wednesday night) will make his third start in this race in the last four years while Thomas Meseraull (Thursday night) will make his eighth career start himself.
Friday night’s action will feature Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, Chris Windom, Andrew Layser, Tucker Klaasmeyer, Justin Grant and others as the 10 drivers who will have an easy day on Saturday up until the start, will be star studded.