A driver with the nickname "Sunshine" and a Big-Block Modified driver from the state of New York stole the show during Tuesday night's A-Main at the 31st Annual Chili Bowl Nationals. Tyler Courtney won the 25-lap feature to end the night at Tulsa Expo Raceway (OK), while Larry Wight went "elbows up" to lock himself into Saturday's big show.
"We parked it, man," Courtney said on the Racinboys.com live broadcast. "It's pretty special. I've been close to making this show here quite a bit, but I just couldn't ever get it done. It's a really cool feeling. It's hard to put into words."
Courtney of Indianapolis, Indiana started from the pole position before surrendering the lead to Matt Sherrell on lap 3. Driving the Clauson-Marshall Racing No. 7BC, Courtney would battle back to pass Sherrell and retake the lead on lap 6 while Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson closed in on the leaders.
Following a caution for debris on lap 15, Larson pounced by throwing a slider to take the lead in turn one on lap 17. However, the next time around Courtney returned the favor to take back the number-one spot.
As the two drivers entered turn three, Larson went out of the racing groove before flipping his No. 71K Dirt Midget and landing upside down on his roof. He would return to the race track after a visit to the pits before finishing 21st.
"I was not expecting to see the 71K (Larson) spun around, but it is what it is," Courtney said. "He's came from further back than where he's going to be, so he's still going to be one of the guys to beat on Saturday."
"Lightning" Larry Wight, who had been lurking in the top five after starting seventh, found himself in the second position following Larson's flip. The Super DIRTcar Series regular fended off a late charge from Zach Daum to finish second and lock himself into Saturday's A-Main in just his second career Chili Bowl attempt.
"This is only the second time I've ever raced one of these, but I told [crew chief] Sean Michael that by the end of the week we'd get this thing to drive like a Modified," Wight told Racinboys.com. "This is going to make the whole week so much easier. These guys put in 120-percent every day. I can't ask for anything more."
Thrown into a field full of drivers who compete in Dirt Midgets on a regular basis, Wight showed those in attendance what a Big-Block Modified driver could do on a slick race track.
"Me and McCreadie are really the only Modified guys from the Northeast," Wight stated. "We're kind of hidden away from everybody up there with our slick tracks, and this is when it helps us."
Zach Daum turned in an impressive performance, racing from the 10th starting spot to finish third and lock himself into Saturday's A-Main. Alex Bright rallied from the 12th position to finish in the fourth and final transfer spot.
Earlier in the night, Kyle Larson won the $6,363-to-win VIROC feature in honor of Bryan Clauson.
Chili Bowl preliminary action will continue Wednesday with another full slate of qualifying heats and qualifying races. You can watch all the action via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Racinboys.com.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: WRT Speedwerx/Burnett
Chili Bowl Night #1 A-Main Unofficial Results
1. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 2. 99W-Larry Wight; 3. 5D-Zach Daum; 4. 77-Alex Bright; 5. 8J-Jonathan Beason; 6. 5CB-Chase Briscoe; 7. 4H-Tom Harris; 8. 82M-Steven Shebester; 9. 35-Matt Sherrell; 10. 17-Joey Saldana; 11. 25MP-Michael Pickens; 12. 5H-Aaron Reutzel; 13. 05-Brad Loyet; 14. 51J-R.J. Johnson; 15. 97K-Spencer Bayston; 16. 66-Kevin Thomas Jr; 17. 4R-Ryan Greth; 18. 44X-Wesley Smith; 19. 3H-Mike Hess; 20. 78-Nick Wean; 21. 71K-Kyle Larson; 22. 14W-Matt Westfall; 23. 18-Tony Bruce Jr; 24. 17E-Blake Edwards