There’s no race in the world that means more to Christopher Bell than the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. He’s been close to winning a few times. He probably should have gotten that coveted Golden Driller in 2016, but he was too aggressive and spun out while battling lapped traffic. But one year later Bell was more patient, and his patience paid off. Christopher Bell is finally the winner of the Chili Bowl.
“This has been a long-time coming,” said Bell on the MAVTV broadcast. “This is a dream come true.”
Bell started second to Justin Grant by virtue of Friday night’s pole shuffle. He stayed behind Grant for about 15 laps when almost everybody behind him moved to the outside. When Bell moved up he propelled by Grant to take over the lead.
From there it was all Bell out front, but he had heavy pressure from World of Outlaws Sprint Car regular Daryn Pittman.
But fortunately for Bell, he never had to deal with his nemesis from 2016: Lapped traffic. Just as Bell started to catch the rear of the field with 11 laps to go the caution flag waved.
The caution may have put Pittman right on his bumper, but it also gave him clear track ahead of him and he put that clean track to good use.
Bell pulled away from Pitman on every single restart, including the final one with five laps to go. He drove to the checkered flag with ease over Pittman, Grant, Tanner Thorson and Jake Swanson.
The Norman, Oklahoma native became the first driver from the state of Oklahoma to win the Chili Bowl since 1994. He climbed out of his Keith Kunz Motorsports machine with tears in his eyes.
“Oh my God I just won the Chili Bowl,” said Bell. “This races means everything to me. I’ve been sitting in those stands since I was a little kid. For me to be able to win here is a dream come true.”
Bell credited the frequency of cautions and his strength on restarts as the key to his win on Saturday night.
“That was huge,” Bell said. “I never really had to deal with any traffic all race long. Every time I’ve come to this race I’ve just attacked, attacked, attacked and it never worked out. I always got in trouble and took myself out. This time I was just trying to go hard enough. I was paying attention to the big screen. I was able to watch that and gauge how far those guys were coming on. I just really wanted to make sure I hit my marks.”
Pittman, meanwhile, came up one spot short in his favorite race of the year. However, Pittman was still able to muster a smile because of who won the race.
“If there’s anyone I’d want to finish second to here it’s Christopher Bell,” Pitmann said. “He loves this race.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: WRT Speedwerx/Larry Burnett
31st Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals
River Spirit Expo Center, Tulsa, Okalahoma
|8||5||Jerry Coons Jr.|
|16||17BC||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|