Kruseman Conquers Friday’s Chili Bowl Field!

Levi Jones, Cory Kruseman, and Bryan Clauson after Friday's feature at the 2011 Chili Bowl Nationals. - Alan Holland Photo
From Lonnie Wheatley

TULSA, Okla. (January 13, 2012) – Two-time Chili Bowl champion Cory Kruseman made his way back to the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway victory lane by topping Friday night’s 25-lap Vacuworx International qualifying feature at the 26th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

Kruseman battled past Indy 500-bound Bryan Clauson for the lead on the high side en route to a Chili Bowl record seventh career preliminary feature win aboard his Esslinger-powered MavTV/Lucas Oil No. 21k Esslinger, with runner-up Levi Jones and third-place Clauson also locking into Saturday night’s 50-lap Chili Bowl championship finale.

With Kruseman, who has claimed Golden Driller trophies in 2000 and 2004, gridding the feature field inside the second row, Clauson led the way to the green flag with Jac Haudenschild alongside. Clauson gunned into the lead at the drop of Roger Slack’s green flag, with Kruseman working into second in the initial rounds before the race’s only caution flew after six rounds for turn one chaos that sent Kevin Bayer and Brad Loyet pitside for the night.

With Clauson working the bottom of the track Esslinger-powered Indy Car/Indy 500 No. 39c Spike, Kruseman began challenging on the top side and finally surged into the lead exiting the fourth corner on the ninth circuit.

“We got the momentum going around the top and obviously momentum is always faster when the track is gonna get drier and drier,” Kruseman explained afterward.

Clauson wasn’t done yet though, keeping the pressure on and pulling alongside several times until a slight bobble in turns three and four on the 15th round opened the door for fifth-starter Levi Jones to race into second aboard the RW56 Esslinger-powered Three Wide Life No. 56 Esslinger.

Kruseman kept Jones and Clauson at bay over the final ten circuits despite lapped traffic in the final handful of rounds that forced him to the low side for a couple of rounds to maintain command.

Kruseman crossed the stripe with a 0.574-second advantage, locking into his 11th career Chili Bowl championship finale and third in a row after a three-year dry spell from 2007 to 2009.

Jones, who topped Septembers Gold Crown Midget Nationals, secured a starting berth in his third career Chili Bowl finale and first since 2009 by virtue of his runner-up finish while Clauson landed in his third finale as well by taking the show position after claiming fifth in last year’s 50-lapper.

Haudenschild brought Bernie Stuebgen’s Toyota-powered Indy Race Parts No. 71b Triple-X home fourth, with Gary “Bubba” Altig advancing a handful of positions to round out the top five in Esslinger-powered A.J. Felker Racing No. 37 FSC.

Daryn Pittman was sixth, with Nick Knepper, Ryan Smith, Bud Kaeding and 23rd starter Ronnie Gardner completing the top ten.

Finland’s Markus Niemela and Connecticut’s David Gravel were the only Chili Bowl rookie contenders to make Friday’s feature cut, finishing 17th and 18th, respectively.

Bayer, Davey Ray, Brent Beauchamp, Knepper, Derrick Myers, Haudenschild, Levi Roberts and Dave Darland topped heat race action for Friday night’s 60-car field, with Ryan Smith, Kaeding, Jones and Clauson winning the qualifying races.

After getting caught up in an opening lap tangle and flipping, Brad Loyet bounced back to win the first “C “Main and then climbed to third behind Joey Saldana and Brad Mosen in the first “B” Main to transfer to the feature event.

Bill Balog chased Rick Eckert to the line in the second “C” Main and then earned a transfer to the “A” as well behind Beauchamp, Bayer and Shane Hollingsworth in the second “B” Main.

Sixty Friday night competitors brought this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals competitor total to 259, three more than the total of 256 over each of the past two years.

Friday’s Vacuworx International Qualifier Results from the 26th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals:

Heat Races (8 Laps each, Top 40 in passing points to A Qualifiers; Balance to twin C Mains)

Heat 1: 1. #91B Kevin Bayer, Bixby, OK; 2. #49 Trevor Kobylarz, Birdsboro, PA; 3. #56 Levi Jones, Olney, IL; 4. #67Z Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN; 5. #15B Danny Burke, Houston; 6. #89JR Ron Kuhn, Independence, MO; 7. #22S Steve Stasa, West Hills, CA; 8. #11X Dustin Hapka, Grand Forks, ND

Heat 2: 1. #33 Davey Ray, Indianapolis, IN; 2. #21K Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 3. #37 Bubba Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 4. #20 Tadd Holliman, Beaver Lake, NE; 5. #28 Alex Schutte, Rohnert Park, CA; 6. #87C Daniel Robinson, Wayne City, IL; 7. #57B Bill Balog, Brookfield, WI; 8. #87R Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL

Heat 3: 1. #43 Brent Beauchamp, Indianapolis, IN; 2. #71K David Gravel, Watertown, CT; 3. #81 Markus Niemela, Rauma, Finland; 4. #7DA Dalton Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 5. #71S Ronnie Gardner, Corona, CA; 6. #0X Johnny Murdock, Kaufman, TX; 7. #17 Michael Koontz, Bloomington, IN; 8. #05 Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, MO

Heat 4: 1. #63 Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 2. #35S Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO; 3. #0 Ryan Smith, Kunkletown, PA; 4. #21 Daryn Pittman, Owasso, OK; 5. #17W Cole Wood, Auburn, CA; 6. #24E Rick Eckert, York, PA; 7. #05H Jake Swanson, Anaheim, CA; 8. #19D Steven Drevicki, Reading, PA

Heat 5: 1. #25M Derrick Myers, Stonington, IL; 2. #2 Bud Kaeding, Campbell, CA; 3. #22X Keith Martin, Alvarado, TX; 4. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Lafayette, IN; 5. #51B Ryan Blakeman, Jacksonville, IL; 6. #191 Chase Barber, Brownsburg, IN; 7. #86 Josh Most, Red Oak, IA

Heat 6: 1. #71B Jac Haudenschild, Wooster, OH; 2. #5H Mike Hess, Springfield, IL; 3. #0G Greg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 4. #32 Danny Jennings, Norman, OK; 5. #47 Brad Mosen, Auckland, NZ; 6. #12H Jarrod Hull, Sikeston, MO; 7. #21AZ Mike Visser, Cottonwood, AZ

Heat 7: 1. #9 Levi Roberts, Broomfield, CO; 2. #4 Bobby East, Brownsburg, IN; 3. #77X Joey Moughan, Springfield, IL; 4. #11H Garrett Hood, Concordia, KS; 5. #14R Troy DeCaire, Tampa, FL; 6. #7 Shannon McQueen, Bakersfield, CA; 7. #77B Mike Boesel, Bennett, CO

Heat 8: 1. Dave Darland, Lincoln, IN; 2. #39C Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN; 3. #11J Justin Melton, Flower Mound, TX; 4. #0B Glenn Styres, Ohsweken, Ontario; 5. #8R Bobby Ruffin, Crandall, TX; 6. #29 Brandon Hahn, Tulsa, OK; DNS – #6Y Vinny Villeggiante, Gresham, OR

C Mains (10 Laps – Top 4 in each transfer to back of corresponding B Main)

C Main 1: 1. #05 Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, MO; 2. #191 Chase Barber, Brownsburg, IN; 3. #7 Shannon McQueen, Tehachapi, CA; 4. #77B Mike Boesel, Bennett, CO; 5. #17 Michael Koontz, Bloomington, IN; 6. #0X Johnny Murdock, Kaufman, TX; 7. #29 Brandon Hahn, Tulsa, OK; 8. #11X Dustin Hapka, Grand Forks, ND; 9. #12H Jerrod Hull, Sikeston, MO; DNS – #21AZ Mike Visser, Cottonwood, AZ

C Main 2: 1. #24E Rick Eckert, York, PA; 2. #57B Bill Balog, Brookfield, WI; 3. #14R Troy DeCaire, Tampa, FL; 4. #89JR Ron Kuhn, Independence, MO; 5. #86 Josh Most, Red Oak, IA; 6. #22S Steve Stasa, West Hills, CA; 7. #19D Steven Drevicki, Reading, PA; 8. #87R Rich Camfield, Decatur, IL; DNS – #05H Jake Swanson, Anaheim, CA; #6Y Vinny Villeggiante, Gresham, OR

A Qualifiers (10 Laps – Top 16 in combined passing points to A Main; Balance to twin B Mains)

A Qualifier 1: 1. #0 Ryan Smith, Kunkletown, PA; 2. #21 Daryn Pittman, Owasso, OK; 3. #71B Jac Haudenschild, Wooster, OH; 4. #33 Davey Ray, Indianapolis, IN; 5. #81 Markus Niemela, Rauma, Finland; 6. #49 Trevor Kobylarz, Birdsboro, PA; 7. #28 Alex Schutte, Rohnert Park, CA; 8. #47 Brad Mosen, Auckland, NZ; 9. #22X Keith Martin, Alvarado, TX; 10. #11H Garrett Hood, Concordia, KS

A Qualifier 2: 1. #2 Bud Kaeding, Campbell, CA; 2. #21K Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 3. #67Z Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN; 4. #43 Brent Beauchamp, Indianapolis, IN; 5. #11J Justin Melton, Flower Mound, TX; 6. #71K David Gravel, Watertown, CT; 7. #91B Kevin Bayer, Bixby, OK; 8. #71S Ronnie Gardner, Corona, CA; 9. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Lafayette, IN; 10. #20 Tadd Holliman, Beaver Lake, NE

A Qualifier 3: 1. #56 Levi Jones, Olney, IL; 2. #5H Mike Hess, Springfield, IL; 3. #35S Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO; 4. #9 Levi Roberts, Broomfield, CO; 5. #25M Derrick Myers, Stonington, IL; 6. #4 Bobby East, Brownsburg, IN; 7. #7DA Dalton Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 8. #17W Cole Wood, Auburn, CA; 9. #0B Glenn Styres, Oshweken, ONT; 10. #8R Bobby Ruffin, Crandall, TX

A Qualifier 4: 1. #39C Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN; 2. #37 Bubba Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 3. #5 Dave Darland, Lincoln, IN; 4. #63 Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 5. #0G Greg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 6. #51B Ryan Blakeman, Jacksonville, IL; 7. #87C Daniel Robinson, Wayne City, IL; 8. #32 Danny Jennings, Norman, OK; 9. #15B Danny Burke, Houston, TX; 10. #77X Joey Moughan, Springfield, MO

B Mains (15 Laps – Top 4 in each transfer to A Main)

B Main 1: 1. #67Z Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN; 2. #47 Brad Mosen, Auckland, NZ; 3. #05 Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, MO; 4. #71S Ronnie Gardner, Corona, CA; 5. #87C Daniel Robinson, Wayne City, IL; 6. #7 Shannon McQueen, Tehachapi, CA; 7. #22X Keith Martin, Alvarado, TX; 8. #191 Chase Barber, Brownsburg, IN; 9. #11H Garrett Hood, Concordia, KS; 10. #33 Davey Ray, Indianapolis, IN; 11. #49 Trevor Kobylarz, Birdsboro, PA; 12. #0B Glenn Styres, Ohsweken, ONT; 13. #77B Mike Boesel, Bennett, CO; 14. #25M Derrick Myers, Stonington, IL; 15. #51B Ryan Blakeman, Jacksonville, IL; 16. #20 Tadd Holliman, Beaver Lake, NE

B Main 2: 1. #43 Brent Beauchamp, Indianapolis, IN; 2. #91B Kevin Bayer, Bixby, OK; 3. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Lafayette, IN; 4. #57B Bill Balog, Brookfield, WI; 5. #7DA Dalton Armstrong, New Castle, IN; 6. #11J Justin Melton, Flower Mound, TX; 7. #24E Rick Eckert, York, PA; 8. #15B Danny Burke, Houston, TX; 9. #32 Danny Jennings, Norman, OK; 10. #14R Troy DeCaire, Tampa, FL; 11. #89JR Ron Kuhn, Independence, MO; 12. #8R Bobby Ruffin, Crandall, TX; 13. #0G Greg Bragg, Visalia, CA; 14. #28 Alex Schutte, Rohnert Park, CA; 15. #17W Cole Wood, Auburn, CA; DNS — #77X Joey Moughan, Springfield, MO

A Main (25 laps – Top 3 advance to Saturday Night’s Main Event)

“A” Main: 1. #21k Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA; 2. #56 Levi Jones, Olney, IL; 3. #39c Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN; 4. #71b Jac Haudenschild, Wooster, OH; 5. #37 Bubba Altig, Mechanicsburg, IL; 6. #21 Daryn Pittman, Owasso, OK; 7. #63 Nick Knepper, Belleville, IL; 8. #0 Ryan Smith, Kunkletown, PA; 9. #2 Bud Kaeding, Campbell, CA; 10. #71s Ronnie Gardner, Corona, CA; 11. #35s Hunter Schuerenberg, Sikeston, MO; 12. #5 Dave Darland, Lincoln, IN; 13. #9 Levi Roberts, Broomfield, CO; 14. #4 Bobby East, Brownsburg, IN; 15. #5h Mike Hess, Springfield, IL; 16. #67z Joey Saldana, Brownsburg, IN; 17. #81 Markus Niemela, Rauma, FIN; 18. #71k David Gravel, Watertown, CT; 19. #47 Brad Mosen, Auckland, NZ; 20. #43 Brent Beauchamp, Indianapolis, IN; 21. #57b Bill Balog, Brookfield, WI; 22. #85 Shane Hollingsworth, Lafayette, IN; 23. #91b Kevin Bayer, Bixby, OK; 24. #05 Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, MO.