Night number two of the 31st Annual Chili Bowl Nationals was a memorable and at some points, strange evening. Former race winners struggled throughout Wednesday’s qualifying rounds, while one of the big underdogs rose to take the top step on the podium when the checkered flag waved at the end of the night.
Travis Berryhill spends most of his time preparing Don Schumacher’s Drag Racing cars while maintain a racing career on the Dirt. What he accomplished on Wednesday was the biggest moment yet of his racing career.
Berryhill started fifth and quickly moved into third before blowing past both Andrew Felkner and Blake Hahn to take the lead on lap 3 of the 25-lap A-Main feature. From there, Berryhill never looked back taking the win and more importantly, locking himself into the Saturday A-Main.
“I’ve been coming here a long time. We’ve had good runs, we’ve had a lot of bad ones, but you just got to keep digging and put it all together,” Berryhill said on the RacinBoys.com broadcast. “This is proof of it. I’m sure a lot of guys are going to be like, ‘How the heck did this guy win this race?’ But you know what, I’m not the best race car driver in the world, but I’m certainly not the worst. We’ve been working a long time to get here and it finally paid off.”
Also locking into Saturday’s A-Main was runner-up and fellow California driver Jake Swanson who came all the way from 18th after racing hard and keeping his nose clean. While he had a possible race-winning car, he tipped his hat to Berryhill and was satisfied with making the “big dance.”
“I’m really stoked for Travis, that’s really cool, I’ve watched him a long time and I’ve always been a fan of his. It’s really cool to see him win a prelim, Swanson said on the live broadcast. “I’m stoked on second, all I wanted to do was lock this thing in the show Saturday night, and we did it I made it.”
Colby Copeland completed the Golden State trifecta at the top of the field, securing the final Saturday A-Main transfer by a half car-length over Gary Tyler.
“I really can’t believe it; these guys gave me a great car. It’s probably going to kick in in a little bit, but what an accomplishment. It’s crazy.” Copeland told RacinBoys after climbing out.
As always, the night was cruel to many, including Andrew Felkner, Blake Hahn, and Kevin Bayer, who started in the top three of the A-Main only for all three to run into problems and finish in the last three spots, being relegated to the “Alphabet Soup” on Saturday.
The night was especially hard on former race winners. Sammy Swindell got buried in his heat and had to start in the C-Main. He won his C-Main, transferred into the A-Main from his B-Main and eventually made his way as high as seventh where he finished in the feature.
Meanwhile, things were even tougher for two-time defending winner Rico Abreu, who flipped, but finished in his heat. He also was forced to start a C-Main, which he also won. Abreu had time to get to the fourth-place transfer spot in his B-Main, but spun out when he went for it. Both Abreu and Swindell will have a steep hill to climb Saturday to get to the A-Main feature.
The third night of the 31st Chili Bowl Nationals gets underway with racing beginning at 5 p.m. CT on Thursday night. RacinBoys.com will once again have the live broadcast.
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 31-Travis Berryhill; 2. 68W-Jake Swanson; 3. 51X-Colby Copeland; 4. 05T-Gary Taylor; 5. 91T-Tyler Thomas; 6. 71-Ryan Robinson; 7. 1-Sammy Swindell; 8. 15-Donny Schatz; 9. 32-Casey Shuman; 10. 2A-Brent Beauchamp; 11. 9P-Parker Price-Miller; 12. 47W-Dylan Westbrook; 13. 4P-Paul McMahan; 14. 5E-David Gravel; 15. 92-Brenden Bright; 16. 51S-Danny Sheridan; 17. 32T-Trey Marcham; 18. 5C-Colten Cottle; 19. 11D-Danny Faria Jr; 20. 69-A.J. Fike; 21. 50-Daniel Adler; 22. 91K-Kevin Bayer; 23. 52-Blake Hahn; 24. (DNF) 11A-Andrew Felker
-Story by Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Cracked Lens Photography