Jesse Colwell scored a win that he will never forget Wednesday night at Millbridge Speedway. The 19-year-old racer from Red Bluff, California pulled away on a restart with five laps to go to win the inaugural Keith Kunz Giveback Classic and earn himself a ride for the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
“I think it means a lot,” Colwell told Speed51.com after the race. “It definitely was one of the biggest races of my career, and if there was one race I could ever win it was going to be this one that I wanted to win.”
Colwell, driving the No. 86 Outlaw Kart, powered to the inside of polesitter Caden Kvapil on Lap 14 and never looked back en route to the potential career-making victory.
“I knew that you could get more speed by not following somebody, if you could get clean air and more speed on the top and get rolling around you could get back under them,” he stated. “Once you take the clean air away from them, it’s going to slow them down a bunch. I knew that I just had to get down in front of him and get down to the bottom.”
Although Colwell has competed at Millbridge a handful of times in recent years, luck has not been on his side during the track’s premier events.
“We’ve ran here probably four times, five times and every time we’re really good. Leading the race and then break. I’m glad it finally held together.”
Prior to the final restart with five laps to go, Colwell could be seen waving his hand impatiently while pacing the 1/6-mile oval. He later explained why he was doing that.
“The clutch was starting to burn up in the motor, so I just wanted them to get the green flag out and let’s get back to going before something breaks.”
With a victory and $2,000 in hand, Colwell will now make plans to head to Tulsa, Oklahoma in January for the Chili Bowl Nationals. He won’t just be competing in the race; he’ll be driving for the team owned by Keith Kunz that has won the last four versions of the short track spectacle.
“Jesse was hammering the top there early. You could see that he had a lot of speed up there,” Kunz said of his future driver after the race. “It was just a matter of making that big lunge and getting around the (Caden) Kvapil kid. The Kvapil kid was great. I didn’t know if anybody was going to have anything for him but he and Jesse kind of check out early. And then Jesse was hammering the top and the smart thing was to move down like he did, and he just checked out once he did.”
Kunz, the race’s namesake, analyzed the event as a whole at the end of the night.
“There were a lot of neat people here tonight,” he stated. “I’ve seen a lot of people from the NASCAR community. I think everybody enjoyed the racing tonight. Every race was a great race and it was a great race track. The atmosphere was really good. There were a lot of kids here that shined, but Jesse is on top and we’re going to the Chili Bowl.”
After suffering wing damage early on in the race while tangling with a lapped car, Kvapil battled within the top five before ultimately finishing second. Although it wasn’t a victory, he turned heads throughout the night, specifically when he knocked Tyler Seavey out of the pole shuffle earlier in the night.
“I know it’s not a win but it feels like it,” Kvapil said after the race.
Dylan Smith battled through the field to round out the podium after starting 10th. QRC Speed51 Open winner Tyler Seavey finished fourth and California driver Jake Park completed the top five.
Race fans who missed Wednesday’s race can watch an on-demand replay of the Speed51.com broadcast by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Keith Kunz Giveback Classic Unofficial Results
Millbridge Speedway (NC) - October 31, 2018