TULSA, Okla. — A bump-and-run determined the outcome of Saturday’s #BCForever Pole Shuffle and ultimately gave Kyle Larson the pole for the 32nd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center.
Larson was the only driver to advance position during the entirety of the 11-round sequence, with the bottom groove being the preferred lane all the way through.
After defeating Rico Abreu in the semifinal round, Larson dug to Bell’s inside when the green flag waved on the final three-lap dash, pushing Bell wide and leading to a side-by-side battle for the second half of the first revolution.
Still side-by-side when they returned to the first corner, Larson nudged Bell’s bumper as Bell came down the groove going through the turn, with Bell ultimately spinning around as Larson sprinted away to the eventual victory.
Both drivers were able to crack a smile after climbing from their cars, with Larson chalking the battle up to “good, hard racing.”
“It was just a hard track when you didn’t have lane choice, so I knew I was going to have to get aggressive,” said Larson. “The inside front row is a lot better place (to be) than the outside row for 55 laps once they rework the track, so we’ll get after it later tonight and see what we can do.”
“Every spot matters. I got a little aggressive, and then he tried to clear himself going into turn one and we made a little contact and he spun. It is what it is, I guess. He’s good and I’m good, so we’ll just race when it comes feature time. The track’s been amazing all week long. I can’t wait.”
For team owner Keith Kunz, who has a sweep of the top three grid spots for Saturday night’s finale with Larson, Bell and Abreu, the battle wasn’t as nerve-racking as it may have looked.
After all, he had faith in his drivers.
“These three guys are pumped, man,” said Kunz. “They all want (the Golden Driller) really bad. There are no team orders … and there don’t have to be. Those guys know how to race each other, they respect each other and I think everyone’s in for a show when it comes time to get after it.”
Friday night preliminary winner Justin Grant will start alongside Abreu in row two after losing in the quarterfinal round, with Brad Sweet and a fourth Kunz car in Spencer Bayston making up row three.
Shane Golobic earned the seventh position on the grid, but had a huge flip while trying to chase down Bayston in their pole shuffle matchup.
Golobic was uninjured, but his car was towed off on the hook and will have to undergo significant repairs before the main event (10:30 p.m. CT, MAVTV) later in the night.
“I was just trying to make something happen,” said Golobic. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got a good bit of work to do.”
Tyler Thomas, Chase Johnson, Tyler Courtney, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Andrew Felker round out the top 12 starters.
The second half of the A-Main field will be filled by the top six finishers from the twin 20-lap B-Mains that will take place roughly an hour prior to the championship finale.
Full results from the Pole Shuffle and the current starting grid can be viewed on the next page…