By T.J. Buffenbarger
Tulsa, OK – (January 12, 2016) – Tanner Thorson opened his 2016 effort at the Chili Bowl Nationals in victory lane after winning the Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions on Tuesday night at the Tulsa Expo Raceway at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thorson took the lead from Tracy Hines and held off multiple late race challenges by his teammate Kyle Larson to pick up the victory.
For Thorson the victory was great, but keeping his car in one piece for the upcoming preliminary night was also a priority.
“I knew the top was going to be good later in the race. I knew Tracy was going to come off the bottom. We got around him and it turned out to be pretty good,” said Thorson in victory lane. “Like Keith (Kunz) and Pete (Willoughby) said this race can make or break you. You can wreck your car and not have a prelim night, so to be able to keep the car in one piece and come out on top is pretty cool.”
The victory also gave Kunz a great start to the week for his team taking three of the top five finishing positions in the VIROC.
Hines and Danny Stratton started on the front row for the 20-lap invitational feature with Hines leading the opening lap. Behind him Stratton, Thorson, and Tim McCreadie raced for the second spot. Hines pulled away before the caution appeared when defending Chili Bowl Nationals champion Rico Abreu spun between turns one and two. Abreu was able to restart at the tail of the field.
Hines pulled away again after the restart while Thorson continued to work the high side of Stratton for second. Thorson made the move stick down the backstretch on lap five to take over the runner up spot. One lap later Thorson closed in on Hines to challenge for the lead. Behind them Larson started working on Stratton for third, getting a run on the bottom through turns one and two to take the spot on lap eight.
By lap 10 Hines was being pressured with Thorson and Larson. Thorson continued to try high and low, but could not move past Hines for the lead.
The red flag appeared on lap 11 when Sammy Swindell turned over between turns three and four. Swindell emerged from his car uninjured, but the car had too much damage to continue.
Thorson went right to the cushion during the restart to challenge Hines for the lead. Hines slipped on lap 12 and opened the door for Thorson to take the lead with Larson sliding into second. Two laps later Abreu brought out the caution flag again after a spin coming out of turn two. Abreu restarted at the tail of the field.
Larson attempted a slide job on Thorson during the restart, but could not make the pass. Behind Hines, Cory Kruseman, Christopher Bell, Danny Stratton, Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons, Chad Boat, and Tim McCreadie all raced two and three side for fourth on back.
While that torrid battle was taking place Thorson and Larson continued to battle for the lead. Larson tried to get a run on Thorson with two laps to go, but got up on two wheels and allowed Thorson to get away. Larson had one more shot at a desperation slide job on the final lap, but Thorson was able to hold off his teammate for the victory. Larson, Hines, Clauson, and Bell rounded out the top five.
30th Annual Chili Bowl Nationals
Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions VIII
Tulsa Expo Raceway
Tuesday January 12, 2015
VIROC VIII (20 Laps): 1. 67-Tanner Thorson ; 2. 71K-Kyle Larson ; 3. 24-Tracy Hines ; 4. 63-Bryan Clauson ; 5. 71-Christopher Bell ; 6. 15X-Chad Boat ; 7. 6K-Dave Darland ; 8. 67Z-Kasey Kahne ; 9. 47-Danny Stratton ; 10. 47X-Tim McCreadie ; 11. 5-Jerry Coons Jr ; 12. 97-Rico Abreu ; 13. 1ST-J.J. Yeley ; 14. 21K-Cory Kruseman ; 15. 4-Damion Gardner ; 16. 05-Brad Loyet ; 17. 22H-John Heydenreich ; 18. (DNF) 1-Sammy Swindell ; 19. (DNF) 39S-Kevin Thomas Jr