TULSA, Okla. – Chad Boat knew when he drew the pole for Tuesday’s 10th annual Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions that it might just be a harbinger of success later in the night.
By the end of the 20-lap all-star event that traditionally kicks off the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Boat’s premonition had come true.
The second-generation open wheel racer from Phoenix, Arizona fired off from the bottom lane on the initial start, got into clean air and never looked back, leading from flag-to-flag to capture his first-career VIROC win in the No. 84X Tucker-Boat Motorsports Spike-Speedway Toyota entry.
Boat fended off an early challenge from Tracy Hines and Brad Sweet, then held back a hard-charging Kyle Larson in the final laps to capture what he called one of the biggest wins of his career.
“Man, this is awesome,” said Boat, who gained entry into the event thanks to car owner John Lawson, who led Boat’s father Billy to the Golden Driller in 1997. “We’ve put a lot of work into our indoor program to get better, and this is proof of that. I knew when we pulled the one pill that we’d have a really good shot.”
“I said at DuQuoin that coming into this year, we thought what we learned there would translate here to Tulsa, and so far it’s working out alright for us.”
Though Boat never gave up the lead, he had plenty of heat from behind in the form of defending VIROC champion Larson, who was looking for his second-straight win in the special event.
“I looked up at the big screen and thought I gave him an opportunity with three to go, but we were able to hold him off, which was really cool,” Boat explained.
Now the focus shifts to later in the week for Boat, who will look to qualify into Saturday’s championship program during Vacuworx Night on Friday.
“Obviously, we have a job to do Friday before we worry about Saturday,” Boat said. “We need to lock ourselves into the pole shuffle to give us a good starting spot. We need to make sure we put the horse before the cattle.”
“The car is working really well. I felt really good yesterday on practice day, but you don’t really know until you’re on the same track as a lot of good cars. That’s one of the great things the VIROC race does. This is definitely the most momentum we’ve had going into a Friday night and hopefully we can carry it on. … I know what it takes to win here; we’ve been up there, and I think we’ll take our disappointments from the past and use them as motivation this week.”
By virtue of his win, Boat took home a $6,363.63 winner’s check, posted for the second-straight year in memory of the late Bryan Clauson, who won the Chili Bowl in 2014.
“Bryan was a great champion,” noted Boat. “What a great opportunity for me to be able to stand here and win this event in honor of him. It’s really special.”
Larson came up four tenths of a second short and had to settle for second, followed by Tanner Thorson, Hines and Sweet.
Defending Chili Bowl champion Christopher Bell charged from 18th on the grid to finish 11th in the VIROC.
RESULTS: 32nd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals; Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions X; Jan. 9, 2018
VIROC X (20 laps): 1. 84X-Chad Boat ; 2. 01-Kyle Larson ; 3. 63-Tanner Thorson ; 4. 24-Tracy Hines ; 5. 63D-Brad Sweet ; 6. 39-Michael Pickens ; 7. 97K-Spencer Bayston ; 8. 47X-Tim McCreadie ; 9. 71G-Damion Gardner ; 10. 97-Rico Abreu ; 11. 71W-Christopher Bell ; 12. 1R-Thomas Meseraull ; 13. 47-Danny Stratton ; 14. 67Z-Kasey Kahne ; 15. 5-Jerry Coons Jr. ; 16. 05-Brad Loyet ; 17. 21K-Cory Kruseman ; 18. 1-Sammy Swindell ; 19. 2R-J.J. Yeley .
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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