As racers prepare for next month’s Chili Bowl Nationals, January 10-15 at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Christopher Bell turned a last-minute entry in the Jason Leffler Memorial into victory with a Lap 14 pass on Cannon McIntosh at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin. The 0.2-mile track is similar to what Bell will face in Tulsa.
McIntosh took the early lead from polesitter Chase Briscoe, who will also be in attendance at the Chili Bowl, before he was first caught and then stalked for three laps by Bell. Soon afterward, Bell grabbed the lead, Briscoe and Cory Eliason spun from the top five to keep the field tight for most of the race. Bell scooted out to a sizeable lead from Lap 30-44 until a caution with six laps remaining bunched the field once more and turned the race into a shootout.
Bell’s previous best in this race was a second in 2014.
McIntosh held onto second while Briscoe battled back to 10th from the back of the pack.
Rounding out the top five were Chance Crum in third, Sam Johnson in fourth and Mitchel Moles in fifth.
With the win, Bell became the eighth different driver to win this event in eight runnings. The win also snapped a long winless streak for Bell, who had not visited Victory Lane in a USAC Midget in three years.
— Christopher Bell (@CBellRacing) December 19, 2021
This was Bell’s first victory in the Jason Leffler Memorial, but he has been much more productive in the Chili Bowl festivities. Bell won the A-Main in three consecutive seasons from 2017 through 2019. As Kyle Larson assumed the mantle of winner in the past two seasons, Bell won the invitational VIROC race in 2020 and 2021. Larson also has two VIROC wins in 2014 and 2017.
Limbering up should help make the 2022 race another epic battle between Bell and Larson. In 2019, Bell made a last-lap pass on Larson as the pair swapped sliders late in the race. In 2020, Bell and Larson had another heated battle with Larson first and Bell second. Bell was also Larson’s closet competition last year until he hit a rut in the track and flipped out of second with three laps remaining.