Bell Dominates Thursday Night Qualifier At Chili Bowl

Christopher Bell dominated John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night, winning his heat race, qualifier and feature to advance directly to Saturday’s A Main feature at the 34th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center. Thomas Meseraull finished second and Buddy Kofoid was third as Toyota drivers swept the podium.

Bell earned the fourth consecutive preliminary night feature for Toyota in capturing the Thursday night preliminary feature for the fifth straight year.  It was his 56th national midget feature win, the most by any Toyota-powered driver.

Pole-sitter Shane Golobic took the early lead, with Meseraull in second and and Kofoid running fourth.  On lap three, Meseraull would go high and then dive underneath Golobic to take over the top spot. Bell was on the move behind him, entering into the top-five and by lap eight, he had climbed to second.

Running the high side, the Norman, Oklahoma-native, would close on Meseraull and then take the lead on lap 12 and immediately start to distance himself, with Kofoid taking over third. With a long stretch of green flag racing, Bell began to encounter heavy lapped traffic in the final 10 laps of the 30-lap feature as the action heated up behind him. Kofoid was right on Meseraull’s tail for second and a pass directly to Saturday’s A Main, but passing both ‘T-Mez’ and the lapped traffic would prove to be difficult. At the finish line, it was Bell, Meseraull and Kofoid.

“It was a heck of a race,” said Bell. “The first five laps everybody was running up there together. It was nice to get a green flag run in. We definitely learned a lot tonight. Hopefully, it will translate to Saturday. (Team owner) Chad Boat and I have become really great friends. It’s been a lot of fun to watch the transition at Tucker-Boat. I’m very proud of them. It’s been an outstanding week so far and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling.”

While falling just short of the transfer position, Kofoid certainly made his presence felt in his first Chili Bowl qualifying night.

“I felt like I was closing on Thomas, but the lapped traffic was so thick,” said the 18-year-old Californian. “It was just so crazy when the lapped cars were racing each other side-by-side as well. For my first Chili Bowl, a third-place tonight is pretty cool. It’s not a lock-in position, but we’re in a good spot for Saturday. I feel like I came a long way from my heat race and I’m feeling comfortable in the car. Toyota and Keith Kunz have given me a great opportunity. I’m excited for this year.”

Overall, seven Toyota drivers advanced to Thursday night’s A Main, with each finishing in the top-13. Behind the top three were Jason McDougal in eighth, Jerry Coons Jr. in ninth, Tanner Berryhill in 11th and Joe B. Miller in the 13th position. While Bell and Meseraull transfer to Saturday’s A Main, Kofoid and McDougal will begin in the B Main; and Coons, Berryhill, and Miller from the C. 

This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals feature more than 350 entries – each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s “A Main” feature event.  After four nights of competition, five Toyota drivers from four different teams have earned their way into Saturday’s final.

Qualifying concludes on Friday night with six more Toyota-powered drivers still to qualify.