Three more tickets have been punched to Saturday’s main event at the 29th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Jerry Coons, Jr. pulled away on the final restart of Thursday’s A-Feature to claim his third Chili Bowl preliminary night win and notch his 12th consecutive berth in the finale of midget racing’s biggest event.
Joining Coons in Saturday’s money show will be runner-up Andrew Deal (+ 2.2 seconds) and third-place finisher Kevin Swindell, himself a four-time Chili Bowl champion.
Coons started from third and on Lap 7 of 25, he assumed the lead. An incident involving Tracy Hines slowed the field down at Lap 14, but Coons nailed the restart and went on to take the checkered flag.
“In any preliminary night, it’s hard enough to run in the top-three, certainly hard enough to win,” Coons said in a release. “Everything has got to go your way, which it did tonight.
“From our Heat, to our Qualifier, everything went right. The reason we celebrate pretty good on preliminary nights is because it’s still a big win.”
Swindell had a trying time in getting to the podium on Thursday, but was able to persevere.
His air box became dislodged in his opening heat race, and he subsequently had to get to the A-Feature via a win in one of the two B-Features.
Then, in the A, he was caught in a Lap 2 pileup that involved 10 cars. Swindell had to visit the work area for a tire change and restarted at the back of the field. Undaunted, he raced his way back toward the front before taking third place from Ryan Bernal on Lap 24.
“I was able to get around the bottom pretty good,” Swindell said in his own thoughts. “I think most of the guys couldn’t and didn’t really try. I had the seas part a couple of times to get a few of them and I guess I had to really work past Bernal at the end.”
Coons, Deal, and Swindell join Night 1 transfers Kyle Larson, Brad Loyet, and Spencer Bayston, plus Night 2 transfers Rico Abreu, Chris Windom, and J.J. Yeley, in Saturday’s main event.
Also among the 80 cars that competed Thursday at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa was the one that belonged to Verizon IndyCar Series team owner and former midget racer Sarah Fisher.
Fisher, who co-owns IndyCar’s CFH Racing with Ed Carpenter, came from sixth on the grid to win the first of two D-Feature races and advance to the C-Feature.
There, Fisher climbed from 13th to a sixth-place finish, but that was not enough to keep her night going as she finished two spots out of transfer position.
The Chili Bowl continues tonight with Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night starting at 6:45 p.m. ET.