TULSA, Okla. (January 15, 2014) – Frank Smith photo – Drama was plenty when the checkered flag dropped on the second night of the 28th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire, as Indiana’s Caleb Armstrong edged out Sammy Swindell for his first Chili Bowl prelim victory on Wednesday’s River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night.
The second first time winner in as many nights, Armstrong began the night’s 25 lap feature from the outside of the front row. Slowed for a caution on Lap 2, Armstrong’s restart relegated the No. 7c to fourth behind Brad Loyet and Alex Sewell.
Working back to the runner up spot by Lap 4, the cushion served the C&A Motorsports driver well, allowing him to chase down leader Chris Andrews by the seventh circuit as the pair approached the tail of the field.
Handling traffic, the Baker Crop Insurance No. 7c worked around Andrews for the top spot at lap 12 and two laps later, clear from traffic, Andrews went for the slide job but instead spun, bringing out the caution on Lap 14.
Back underway with Chris Windom now in pursuit, the RFMS Racing shoe tried for the lead on Lap 19, but was unable to finish the move.
Coming around for the twenty-first time, fifth running Nick Knepper blew through the cushion in turn-three, bouncing the No. 55 off the wall as the engine expired down the front straight-a-way, pouring oil on the bottom of turns one and two.
With the caution displayed, track crews assessed the situation and brought the tiller out to work the nearly engine’s worth of oil into the bottom groove.
Aligned single file for the restart with five laps remaining, Knepper’s departure brought thirteenth starting, Sammy Swindell, into the top five.
Into second with two laps to run, Swindell set his sights on the lead, pulling even with the No. 7c down the back-straight-away with Armstrong maintain the point. Swindell again applied pressure at the white flag.
Committed to the cushion, Armstrong surrendered the lead through the first turn. Giving Swindell just over a half car advantage, Armstrong pulled around the five-time Chili Bowl champion entering the final two turns. Nearly missing the line entering three, Armstrong pitched hard off the cushion exiting the final turn, edging Swindell at the line by 0.441 seconds.
Asked about the final laps, the New Castle, Ind. driver replied, “I saw him (Sammy Swindell) stick his nose in there and I didn’t want to push the issue at first, but then I started pushing it, but I didn’t want to jump the curb. It was easy too, as I did it earlier in the race. I just kept on going and ended up winning.”
On the subject of crews having to till the bottom of the track following the blown engine by Knepper, Swindell responded, “I don’t know if it made a lot of difference. I thought I could slip out there off of two in front of him (Armstrong) there on the last lap. I got there and it wasn’t the grip I thought was going to be there. I should’ve stayed on the bottom. I heard him coming, I just let it go. He ran a good race and I wasn’t going to mess that up.
Chris Windom earned the final pass into Saturday’s championship event.
“We had a really good car,” commented Windom. “We were on Caleb there before that last yellow and I knew Sammy was coming plus I knew JJ (Yeley) was good. They dug that track up in (Turns) one and two, and I made probably the wrong move staying on the top and Sammy got around me on the bottom. I just wasn’t sure what to do there.”
Racing with Rico Abreu for fourth, J.J. Yeley ended his night upside down after the two made contact exiting the fourth turn; resulting in a split finish with the caution displayed with the checkered flag. A very angered Yeley was okay and was scored eighteenth.
Abreu was credited with fourth with Brad Loyet rounding out the top five.
Fifteenth starting Shane Golobic crossed sixth with Brad Kuhn coming from fourteenth to seventh. Jerry Coons, Jr. from eighteenth to eight with Payton Peirce advancing from twenty-first to ninth after transferring from the first B-Feature. Travis Berryhill completed the top ten.
Of the 72 drivers scheduled for Wednesday night, 70 made the draw. Like Tuesday, two Chili Bowl rookies made the call for the A-Feature with Chris Andrews and Parker Price-Miller in the lineup.
The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire continues with Thursday’s John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night. Races begin at 6:00 P.M. (CT) with Hot Laps at 5:00 P.M. For additional information on the Chili Bowl, log onto http://www.chilibowl.com.
RESULTS: Chili Bowl Midget Nationals River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night – Thursday
A-Feature: 25 Laps – Top 3 lock into Saturday’s Championship Feature.
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 7C-Caleb Armstrong; 2. 1-Sammy Swindell; 3. 3-Chris Windom; 4. 67K-Rico Abreu; 5. 05-Brad Loyet; 6. 26-Shane Golobic; 7. 10-Brad Kuhn; 8. 5-Jerry Coons Jr; 9. 39T-Payton Pierce; 10. 31B-Travis Berryhill; 11. 15W-Brandon Waelti; 12. 66-Shane Cockrum; 13. 8K-Frank Flud; 14. 9P-Parker Price-Miller; 15. 15-Tim Siner; 16. 73X-Trey Marcham; 17. 8V-Jace VanderWeerd; 18. 1ST-J.J. Yeley; 19. 5C-Colten Cottle; 20. 91S-Jeff Stasa; 21. (DNF) 55-Nick Knepper; 22. (DNF) 11CA-Chris Andrews; 23. (DNF) 8-Alex Sewell; 24. (DNF) 45X-Johnny Herrera
Lap Leaders: Chris Andrews (1-11), Caleb Armstrong (12-25)