TULSA, OK — official release — TeeJay Crawford photo —
Night three of the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire saw one the Chili Bowl’s veterans claim the checkered flag, as Jerry Coons Jr. hustled the high line to his third career prelim night victory.
What will be the 16th A-Feature start for the Tucson, Ariz. native, this makes 12 consecutive years that Coons has made the cut for Saturday’s grand finale.
“We had 60-70 cars here tonight and some of the top drivers. In any preliminary night, it’s hard enough to run in the top-three, certainly hard enough to win. Everything has got to go your way, which it did tonight. From our Heat, to our Qualifier, everything went right,” commented Coons on the win. “The reason we celebrate pretty good on preliminary nights is because it’s still a big win.”
Following a 10 car pile-up on the second lap, Danny Stratton took off to the race lead. Stalked by Andrew Deal, the Kansas shoe grabbed took point exiting the fourth turn on Lap 4.
Runner-up the following lap, Coons began building momentum. Railing the cushion, Coons set low in turn-three, sailing the Wilke-Pak No. 5 to the cushion and the lead on Lap 7.
Hitting traffic on Lap 11, the Arizona racing veteran gave up very little ground to Deal, despite contact from a slower car on the 13th round. Able to put two slower cars behind him, the caution flew on Lap 14 as Tracy Hines climbed the front straight-a-way wall while running in the final transfer to Saturday’s A-Feature.
Back to green with lapped cars between Coons and Deal, it took little time for the advantage to grow, as Jerry Coons, Jr. crossed the stripe 2.220 seconds ahead of Deal.
Asked about the final restart, Deal said, “I knew the car was good on top. I couldn’t get a good enough run to get around the lapped cars. Luckily they went to the bottom after that restart and that really helped me. I was just thinking, how many laps are left?”
After the Airbox came dislodged from the No. 39 during his Heat Race, forcing him to the rear of the lineup for causing a caution, Kevin Swindell had to earn his spot in the A-Feature through the night’s second B-Feature. Caught in the crash on the second lap, Swindell visited the work area to change a tire. Restarting at the tail, the four-time Chili Bowl Champion made the pass for the final podium step on Lap 24.
“I was able to get around the bottom pretty good. I think most of the guys couldn’t and didn’t really try,” said Swindell when asked about his run from the back. “I had the seas part a couple of times to get a few of them and I guess I had to really work past Bernal at the end.”
California’s Ryan Bernal raced to fourth with Christopher Bell clawing from 17th to complete the top-five after also being involved in the second lap crash.
Danny Stratton ended up sixth after leading early. Indiana’s Justin Peck from nineteenth to seventh with Shane Golobic, Seth Bergman, and Kevin Bayer making up the top-ten.
Thursday’s John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night saw 80 drivers drawing in, putting the week’s count at 248 competitors. Of those, a dozen added their name to the week’s flip count; bringing the flip count to 33 on the week. All drivers have walked away.
The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire continues Friday with the Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night at the River Spirit Expo Center. Hot Laps are slated to begin at 4:45 P.M. with racing at 5:45 P.M. (CT).