TULSA, OKLA. (March 24, 2019) – The standing-room only crowd in attendance and the thousands of fans watching around the world on Speed Shift TV were given a finish for the ages on Sunday night as the sixth annual Turnpike Challenge concluded at Port City Raceway in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hosting a side-by-side affair for the majority of the 30-lap main event, Jonathan Beason of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and Christopher Bell of Norman, Oklahoma delivered an early candidate for race of the year at their home track on the national stage.
Capped off by a green-white-checkered finish, Beason and Bell were locked side-by-side at the white flag and ensued to send the crowd into a frenzy as they took the checkered flag while bouncing off each other. As Beason moved off the bottom and Bell came storming off the cushion the two collided, with Bell climbing Beason’s right rear tire and flipping across the line. Following an official check, the final margin of victory was 0.020 seconds as Beason nipped Bell in an instant classic.
The field of 51 POWRi Lucas Oil National / West Midgets was chopped down to 24 worthy feature starters through heat race, qualifier, C-Main and B-Main action. At the conclusion of preliminary action, Bell, a nine-time winner in Turnpike Challenge competition, had earned high point man honors and was slotted on the pole position.
From the outset, it was Bell commanding the race lead aboard his Keith Kunz Motorsports, Spectra Premium, Bullet-By-Spike/Toyota No. 21. However, he was quickly challenged by Beason, who maneuvered into second around outside polesitter, Zeb Wise, off the start. The duo ran side-by-side momentarily, but Bell snuck away as lap traffic loomed.
At the halfway point, the battle turned serious as Beason snuck by Bell to lead the 15th circuit. He again led laps 16 and 17, but Bell never faded, remaining glued to the cushion and powering back by Beason on lap 18 to reclaim the top spot. Working through lap traffic in the closing stages, it appeared as if Bell had the win in the bag, but a lap 28 caution changed everything.
The green-white-checkered restart saw Bell immediately soar to the top, leaning against the ledge that had developed against the outside wall. Meanwhile, Beason ducked to the bottom, rolling the infield tires aboard his Hard 8 Motorsports, Ferguson Superstore, Spike/Esslinger No. 8J. The duo were wheel-to-wheel as the white flag waved, but as they came off turn four for the checkered flag, it was Beason who had the edge.
The contact at the checkered was near inevitable, as Beason came off the bottom and Bell stormed off the top fighting for the same real estate, causing Bell to climb Beason’s right rear and go for a flip across the line. In the end, Beason ever-so-slightly beat Bell by 0.020 seconds to score his first-career POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League victory in thrilling fashion.
“It is pretty neat, but I’m not real happy with myself on how that turned out,” noted Beason in victory lane. “I was quite surprised that Christopher [Bell] left the bottom open and of course it stuck for me and I got on the gas on exit and it just went right. I don’t want to ever wreck anybody. I’m happy to get the win and I’m glad we are as fast as him and Keith Kunz Motorsports, but I would rather us both cross the line without hitting.”
“I needed more than a couple of laps to build my momentum on the top and I knew that he was good on the bottom, but I didn’t feel like I could outrun him down low, so I felt like by best bet was to stay committed to the top,” said second-place finisher Christopher Bell. “It’s really cool to come back home and run as good as we have this week, it’s a special feeling for me.”
“We were good, but I don’t know if we had anything for Jonathan [Beason] or Christopher [Bell],” claimed third-place finisher Zeb Wise. “We got to them around mid-race in lap traffic, but I never had enough to get by them. I can’t thank my Clauson-Marshall Racing guys enough, they gave me a great car night-in and night-out this week.”
Rounding out the top ten behind Beason, Bell and Wise was Chris Andrews in fourth, Brady Bacon in fifth, Andrew Layser in sixth, Jake Neuman in seventh, Tucker Klaasmeyer in eighth, Matt Sherrell in ninth and Zach Daum in tenth.
Up next for the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League is a three-day showcase in late April. Friday, April 25 will see the first appearance of the 2019 season at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Illinois with back-to-back nights alongside the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series to follow. The Midgets turn to I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Missouri on Saturday, April 26 before heading to Jacksonville Speedway in Jacksonville, Illinois on Sunday, April 27.
Racing Electronics Heat Race Winners: 25 – JERRY COONS JR, 21 – CHRISTOPHER BELL, 17E – BLAKE EDWARDS, 27 – TUCKER KLAASMEYER, 67 – LOGAN SEAVEY, 39BC – ZEB WISE, 71K – TANNER CARRICK
Speed Sport C-Main Winner: 75 – BRIAN MCCLELLAND
Bell Qualifier Winners: 56 – ALEX BRIGHT, 28 – ACE MCCARTHY, 39BC – ZEB WISE, 71K – TANNER CARRICK
Toyota Semi Feature Winners: 3N – JAKE NEUMAN, 32 – TREY MARCHAM
Mesilla Valley Transportation Feature Winner: 8J – JONATHAN BEASON
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League Feature Results (30 laps): 1. 8J – JONATHAN BEASON 2. 21 – CHRISTOPHER BELL 3. 39BC – ZEB WISE 4. 95 – CHRIS ANDREWS 5. 21H – BRADY BACON 6. 3N – JAKE NEUMAN 7. 47BC – ANDREW LAYSER 8. 27 – TUCKER KLAASMEYER 9. 10 – MATT SHERRELL 10. 5D – ZACH DAUM 11. 25 – JERRY COONS JR 12. 44S – ANDREW FELKER 13. 8 – ALEX SEWELL 14. 67 – LOGAN SEAVEY 15. 42 – HANK DAVIS 16. 91T – TYLER THOMAS 17. 15 – COLE BODINE 18. 17E – BLAKE EDWARDS 19. 71K – TANNER CARRICK 20. 7M – CHANCE MORTON 21. 5T – PRESLEY TRUEDSON 22. 56 – ALEX BRIGHT 23. 28 – ACE MCCARTHY 24. 32 – TREY MARCHAM
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