Cannon McIntosh led 24 of 30 laps to win the Cummins Qualifying Night and advance to Saturday’s A Main feature at the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
The victory is the second national midget feature win for McIntosh after previously registering top honors at DuQuoin in USAC competition last March. The triumph comes less than a month after the Bixby, Oklahoma-native, celebrated his 17th birthday. In addition, a Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM) Toyota has now won five of the last six Chili Bowl qualifying night feature events.
Starting from the pole after winning both his heat and qualifying races, McIntosh paced the field for the first four laps before being overtaken by fellow Toyota driver Aaron Reutzel around the top on lap five. Reutzel would hold the lead through lap 10 before getting caught up in an incident that saw a car flip in front of him. The Tucker-Boat Motorsports driver’s car wasn’t damaged, but after coming to a stop, Reutzel would have to start from the back of the field in the 21st position.
That gave McIntosh the lead back and he would pull out a comfortable lead, consistently pulling away from second-place Tyler Courtney on the restarts, while Michael Pickens had driven his Toyota into third. Courtney and Pickens would wage a battle for a second, trading the position back and forth as the laps began to wind down.
An extended red flag would on lap 22 would bunch the field and set up an eight-lap race to the finish. Courtney got the jump and was able to push by on the top side, with Pickens running low as McIntosh momentarily fell back to third, only to quickly get back on the power and accelerate between his two rivals and reclaim the lead coming out of turn two. At that point, McIntosh would never relinquish the top spot on the way to the biggest victory of his career.
“When I saw Aaron get in the mix-up early, I definitely thought we had a better shot at winning that race,” said McIntosh, making his first start with five-time defending Chili Bowl champion KKM. “Tyler scared me getting by on the restart, but we were able to get back past him. I was able to get back on it, then we went three-wide there and I was able to retake the lead. Then I found a groove at the end. I came into this weekend and just wanted to make the main event on Saturday. I never thought we’d be in Victory Lane tonight.”
While McIntosh dominated much of the race upfront, Reutzel was turning in a memorable performance, driving back through the field to claim the third spot in the final laps, setting him up to start Saturday’s B Main from the front row.
“We had a great race car,” said Reutzel afterward. “It was a little disappointing to come in third. We went to the back of the pack and I was able to get some good runs and make it back up to third. We’re still in a good position, though, and we’ll start from the front of the B on Saturday.”
All eight Toyota-powered cars advanced to Monday’s A Main, taking four of the top-five finishing positions as Pickens would finish fourth and Zach Daum captured the fifth spot. Kevin Thomas Jr. placed seventh, Brady Bacon was 14th, Zane Hendricks placed 19th and Ryan Hall was 20th.
This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals features more than 350 entries - each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s “A Main” feature event. Qualifying continues for each of the next four nights with eight more Toyota-powered drivers expected to attempt to qualify on Tuesday.