One year ago Kyle Larson took some damage to the front end of his race car in his heat race on the first night of racing action at the Chili Bowl Nationals.  One year ago Larson was forced to race his way through the “Alphabet Soup” to try to lock himself into the main event.  He had enough time that day to fix the damage and transfer through the heat races into the A-Main on the first qualifying night, and he went out and won the A-Main.


graphic hampton inn new smyrnaFast forward a year and Larson’s fortune was nowhere near as good.  It seemed as though he would have a pretty easy night.  He was fast in his heat race, fast in his qualifier, ran second in the VIROC Race of Champions, and was leading early in the A-Main.


Then a slower car spun out in front of him off turn two just about halfway through the 25-lap race.  Larson had nowhere to go, piled into the other car, and spun around.  Larson’s hopes of winning the A-Main on his qualifying night for the second year in a row were dashed.


“I guess you’re going to have some bad luck,” Larson told powered by JEGS.  “I don’t know when you’d rather have it.  Earlier in the night so you can fix it, or later in the going.  Sometimes you have luck and sometimes it runs out.”


Larson’s loss was Alex Bright’s gain, however.  Bright inherited the lead when Larson tangled with the slower car and led every lap the rest of the way.  But it certainly wasn’t easy for Bright.


Jonathan Beason, Zach Daum and Joey Saldana all took their turns at Bright as the laps wound down.  Beason threw a big slider on Bright in turn three with about five laps remaining, but he popped the cushion and Bright got back by.


Then on the next restart Daum and Saldana both got by Beason and took a shot at Bright in turn three.

Alex Bright celebrates his qualifying night win at the Chili Bowl. (Dave Biro/ photo)

Alex Bright celebrates his qualifying night win at the Chili Bowl. (Dave Biro/ photo)

Saldana and Daum tried to split Bright off turn four, but Bright was able to power ahead and maintain the lead.


On the final lap Saldana didn’t attempt a move in turn one, but instead tried to set up Bright for one final pass attempt in turn three.


Saldana dove to the bottom of Bright, tried to slide up in front of him, but instead the pair drag-raced to the checkered flag with Bright beating Saldana by half a car length.


“This is absolutely amazing,” Bright said afterwards.  “It’s probably at the top of my list for best wins of all time in my career.  Saturday night would definitely top it, but this was definitely a big win for me.”


Thorson Holds Off Larson in the VIROC


Tuesday night always plays host to the 20-lap Race of Champions event at the Chili Bowl, and it’s usually a fun race, but this year it was spectacular.


Tanner Thorson took the lead from Tracy Hines just about halfway through the event, and had to try to fend off his hard charging Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson.


Larson tried the outside a couple of times on Thorson but wasn’t able to make a move work.  Then he tried the inside and was able to gain ground.


With two laps to go Larson drove deep into turn three, caught the berm on the inside of the corner and ran on just the right side tires for the majority of the turn before landing on all four tires again.


But Larson wasn’t done with Thorson.  He tried one more time going into turn three on the final lap, but Thorson was able to power ahead to take the victory.


-By Rob Blount, Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount

-Photo Credit: Dave Biro/


Chili Bowl Night One A-Main Results


A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 77B-Alex Bright[8]; 2. 17-Joey Saldana[11]; 3. 5D-Zach Daum[5]; 4. 8J-Jonathan Beason[2]; 5. 51J-R.J. Johnson[16]; 6. 57B-Chad Boespflug[12]; 7. 35M-Matt Sherrell[3]; 8. 11A-Andrew Felker[19]; 9. 71K-Kyle Larson[1]; 10. 99P-Dillon Welch[17]; 11. 14W-Matt Westfall[14]; 12. 18-Tony Bruce Jr[18]; 13. 17J-Chase Johnson[24]; 14. 39S-Kevin Thomas Jr[7]; 15. 39B-Spencer Bayston[4]; 16. 78-Nick Wean[13]; 17. 0S-Dylan Westbrook[21]; 18. 55-Nick Knepper[22]; 19. 0T-Tyler Brehm[20]; 20. 1PW-Paul White[10]; 21. (DNF) 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[23]; 22. (DNF) 7H-Darren Hagen[9]; 23. (DNF) 22E-Cameron Hagin[15]; 24. (DNF) 44X-Wesley Smith[6]




  1. 67-Tanner Thorson[4]; 2. 71K-Kyle Larson[5]; 3. 24-Tracy Hines[1]; 4. 63-Bryan Clauson[12]; 5. 71-Christopher Bell[16]; 6. 15X-Chad Boat[9]; 7. 6K-Dave Darland[7]; 8. 67Z-Kasey Kahne[8]; 9. 47-Danny Stratton[2]; 10. 47X-Tim McCreadie[3]; 11. 5-Jerry Coons Jr[6]; 12. 97-Rico Abreu[17]; 13. 1ST-J.J. Yeley[10]; 14. 21K-Cory Kruseman[14]; 15. 4-Damion Gardner[13]; 16. 05-Brad Loyet[19]; 17. 22H-John Heydenreich[11]; 18. (DNF) 1-Sammy Swindell[18]; 19. (DNF) 39S-Kevin Thomas Jr[15]

Larson’s Bad Luck Enables Bright to Shine at Chili Bowl