Boyd Adams photos
Bryan Clauson led the final 50 laps and ended Kevin Swindell’s reign at the 28th annual Chili Bowl on Saturday night but it wasn’t nearly as easy as the final margin of victory would indicate.
Clauson, one of the most accomplished open-wheel racers in North America the past five years, scored the biggest win of his career and took the checkered flag almost a straightaway ahead of runner-up Swindell.
Bidding for his fifth consecutive triumph at the winter dirt track extravaganza inside the Tulsa Expo Center, Swindell started 14th and carved his way into second place by lap 52 – just a couple car lengths behind Clauson. But it was his pass of teen-age sensation Christopher Bell for second place with three laps left that pretty much ended the evening’s drama. Swindell slid into Bell in Turn 4 and both cars nearly stopped before chugging away as Clauson disappeared to a commanding lead the final three circuits.
“I’ve never driven any harder than I did tonight and I think I caught a break when Kevin and Chris got together,” said Clauson, who grew up in Noblesville and first came here 10 years ago with his father’s car.
“This is the biggest win of my career and I can’t thank Rusty Kuntz (car owner) for building me such an awesome car. It’s been on rails since we started practice last Tuesday.”
The 24-year-old overall USAC national champion the past two years captured his qualifying race on Friday, started third and swept past polesitter Caleb Armstrong on lap 5. And even though Bell made a couple of good runs at the top spot, Clauson never gave it up and didn’t have to face a Swindell banzai at the end.
“Gave it all I had, just ran out of time,” said the second generation star whose father Sammy is the only five-time winner of this race.
Alex Bright charged from 12th to fourth while 2008 winner Tim McCreadie came home fifth.
Keith Kuntz’ Toyota-powered armada of Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu and Bell looked stout early. Larson stormed from 15th to fifth before his engine let go, while Abreu stormed from 13th to third before spinning out.