For the second year in a row, Bryan Clauson showed everybody in attendance at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma that his No. 63 machine is going to be one of the cars to beat in the Chili Bowl Nationals. Clauson went out and dominated on the final preliminary night for the second straight year to claim the win and lock into Saturday night’s 55-lap main event.
The 2014 champion won everything he could possibly win on Friday night. He won his heat race, even though he started near the rear. He won his qualifying race. He then started on the pole for the 25-lap main event and won that too.
Clauson ran much of Friday night’s feature on the bottom, but by the end of the night he ended up in the top lane to fight off the hard-charging Tim McCreadie.
“I knew eventually I would have to get up top,” said Clauson. “I felt like on that restart I would probably have to get up there pretty quick because I could hear Tim up there. I made about two bad laps on the bottom there and felt like if nothing else I just had to see what was up there, because I was struggling down there. Just like when you get in a good rhythm you can also get in a bad rhythm. I just needed to hit reset.”
Once Clauson moved up to the top he was untouchable. He powered away from McCreadie and was able to deal with the traffic in front of him with ease as he closed in on the back of the field.
Even though traffic did allow McCreadie to close within a few car-lengths of Clauson, he was unable to get to
Clauson to make a move for the win.
McCreadie finished second with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne finishing third. Clauson, McCreadie and Kahne all locked their way into Saturday night’s main event.
Kahne has run at the Chili Bowl before with mixed success. His best finish of sixth came 14 years ago in 2002. Now that he’s once again locked into the main event, he’s already thinking about what a win in the Chili Bowl would mean.
“It would mean so much because it’s such a cool event and such a great race,” said Kahne. “The fans are unbelievable here. It’s just a great show in January. It would be one of the biggest wins that I’ve had. There’s certain wins where you don’t expect them at times and those are probably some of the wins that you remember the most. If I was to win Chili Bowl it would be so unexpected that it would probably be one of the biggest races that I’ve ever run.”
Meanwhile, for Clauson, he’s looking at how he can have a different result than 2015. One year ago Clauson started second in the main event at the Chili Bowl after winning his preliminary night, but he ended up finishing tenth after getting involved in a mid-race incident. However, Clauson said that he didn’t think he had a car capable of winning even without the crash. But this year he seems to think differently.
“The biggest thing is staying out of trouble,” Clauson said. “But I felt like last year we were missing something on our prelim night. I had a pretty good idea that we weren’t the car to beat going into the race even though we were dominant for the first 15 laps or so. I knew we weren’t a car that could win the race last year, but we are certainly there this year. We’ll see how it plays out. It’s a long race.”
Chili Bowl Pole Shuffle
For the first time ever the Chili Bowl Nationals employed a “Pole Shuffle” to determine who would start from the top spot for Saturday’s A-Main. In year’s past the A-Main starting lineup was determined by a random pill draw. This year, however, the drivers raced for the pole.
The 12 drivers locked into the race (prelim winners, second and third-place finishers) drew for numbers one through 12. Drivers then raced in a one-on-one format for two laps. The driver that won then advanced to face the next highest driver.
Zach Daum and Shane Cottle started off the show with Daum defeating Cottle to advance. Daum raced all the way up to eighth position, beating four drivers.
But in the end Friday was just Clauson’s night. The final match race came down to Christopher Bell and Clauson. The pair ran dead-even for the first lap and a half, but Clauson was able to take the win and the pole position when Bell got into the wall in turn three.
“I think it was a lot of fun,” said Clauson. “I think the fans were really able to get into it. I think Daum went from 12th to (eighth) so that was pretty cool. As a competitor there wasn’t a whole lot to lose. You’re only talking one spot so at the end of the day as long as the fans have a good time then it’s totally worth it.”
Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night
River Spirit Expo Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1. 63-Bryan Clauson; 2. 47X-Tim McCreadie; 3. 67Z-Kasey Kahne; 4. 21-Daryn Pittman; 5. 17G-Shane Golobic; 6. 71G-Damion Gardner; 7. 67-Tanner Thorson; 8. 15X-Chad Boat; 9. 73X-Jac Haudenschild; 10. 05H-Hunter Schuerenberg; 11. 21K-Cory Kruseman; 12. 68-Ronnie Gardner; 13. 14-Trevor Kobylarz; 14. 11AG-Dave Darland; 15. 27T-Tucker Klaasmeyer; 16. 35S-Danny Faria Jr; 17. 51W-Danny Sheridan; 18. 15-Tim Siner; 19. 9K-Kyle Schuett; 20. 31B-David Budres; 21. 80-Josh Hawkins; 22. 98D-Clinton Boyles; 23. (DNF) 88N-D.J. Netto; DNS 20A-Alex Shanks…The 20a was found out to be Shane Cockrum, not Alex Shanks. Because of this, Shane has been DQ’d for the 2016 Chili Bowl Nationals.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com