Christopher Bell. That’s it. That’s the story. The 27-year old Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Cup Series driver is absolutely elite on the dirt, and Thursday night at the Chili Bowl Nationals, Bell tied history in an epic duel with Tanner Thorson and CJ Leary.
“I mean, first off I’m going to say, damn I love the Chili Bowl,” Bell said in elation to the thrill of the crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I hope you guys enjoyed that one.”
In snagging the win in the 30-lap A-Feature on Thursday night, Bell has tied the all-time best mark of eight-career Chili Bowl National prelim wins, which was previously achieved by Sammy Swindell.
But just because Bell took home the Chili Bowl prelim win for the seventh-consecutive year, doesn’t mean it was a breeze. He had to absolutely earn this one.
“Man, I had to work for that one,” Bell said after the dramatic battle for the win. “Tanner was really good on — well, he could go really either place — and CJ was good on the bottom, so, that was a hell of a race and a lot of fun.”
Bell started the race in fourth, and in the early going, it looked like he didn’t have the car to win. But as the wetness of the track wore off, Bell’s Keith Kunz Motorsports machine came to life.
Bell said all week long, he’s had a hard time firing off at the beginning of races, but as events drag on, his car hooks up and he can run basically wherever he wants.
“I don’t know. All week long, I feel like I’ve struggled on the wet tracks and especially whenever they put their feature setup in, I just really struggle to get going for the first couple and there at the end, I feel good,” Bell explained. “I can really run the bottom nice and I feel really good on the top too.
After a thrash of crashes that continually halted the action, Bell finally got his shot at Thorson and threw an incredible slider for the lead coming to four laps to go.
Thorson and Bell continued to battle hard and Thorson had a huge run on the backstretch with two laps to go, but Bell put a massive block. That was all it would take as Bell scooted to the finish and the win.
CBell does it!
— FloRacing (@FloRacing) January 14, 2022
In the early laps, Thorson was shot out of a cannon. But continual cautions allowed Bell and the rest of the field to close the gap. In the closing laps, Bell had a chance to win and capitalized.
Thorson didn’t make excuses after the loss, and just credited Bell for being one of the best in midget race cars.
“Obviously Bell is one of the biggest badasses in midgets,” Thorson said. “Hats off to him and Keith Kunz that whole team. They earned that one. I was trying my ass off there and just came up a little bit short.”
By finishing one-two, Bell and Thorson have locked into Saturday’s Chili Bowl Nationals Main Event.
Lear, who drives for NASCAR Cup Series competitor Alex Bowman, held on to finish third and will look to transfer to Saturday’s Main Event from the B-Main.
Here are the full results from Thursday’s A-Main:
- Christopher Bell
- Tanner Thorson
- C.J. Leary
- Tim Buckwalter
- Shane Golobic
- Brady Bacon
- Dillon Welch
- Matt Sherrell
- Emerson Axsom
- Don Droud Jr.
- Shane Cottle
- Spencer Bayston
- Steve Buckwalter
- Joe B. Miller
- Mitchell Davis
- Frankie Guerrini
- Danny Stratton
- Andrew Deal
- Damion Gardner
- Brent Crews
- Stevie Sussex III
- Brody Fuson
- Maria Cofer
- Whit Gastineau