all pics: Boyd Adams
In the year since Christopher Bell began racing full-time in USAC, he’s won a lot of races and opened a lot of eyes. And Thursday night here in the preliminaries for the 25th annual Chili Bowl the teenager added to his growing reputation.
Starting on the pole in Keith Kunz’ specially-built midget powered by Toyota, Bell ran away and hid in the 25-lap A Main – finishing more than a straightaway ahead of runnerup Damion Gardner. The drive put Bell on the inside of Row 2 for Saturday night’s 50-lap main event at the Tulsa Exposition Center.
“Being from Oklahoma this is the one race I always wanted to win and Keith has given me a car that can do it,” said the 19-year-old, who became the second youngest USAC national midget champion in 2013.
“He built special cars for this race and it’s a dream to drive. And I’m living my dream getting to race here with such a great team.”
Lapping cars by Lap 10, Bell’s huge lead was briefly chopped into by Gardner as they negotiated traffic but he quickly re-established command and steadily pulled away from the hard-nosed short track veteran from California.
“Chris was hooked up, I didn’t have anything for him,” said Gardner, who transferred into Saturday’s featured show along with New Zealand’s Michael Pickens.
Kevin Swindell, who has captured the last four Chili Bowls, suffered a flat tire in his heat, stormed back to win one of the B mains but may have to use his provisional (as a former winner) to make the A main since he’ll have to start Saturday in the back of the B Main.
NASCAR regular Ricky Stenhouse, who got his start in USAC midgets and sprints, flipped during hot laps (BELOW) but returned to run the B main and he’ll have to pass a lot of cars Saturday to make it into the main event.