T.J.’s Takeaways from Wednesday Night of the 2019 Chili Bowl Nationals

David Gravel (Serena Dalhamer photo)
  • I went to my first Chili Bowl Nationals in 2001 and the question then was could anyone stop Pete Whilloughby and Keith Kunz from sweeping the weekend. Fast forward to 2018 with twice as many entries, five nights of racing instead of three, and we’re still asking that same question.

    With Christopher Bell slated to qualify on Thursday along with Tuckey Klassmeyer and Spencer Bayston on Friday there is a good chance of the Kunz team sweeping all the features this week. Thursday has KKM fielding three entries with McKenna Hasse and Sam Jonson joining Bell it will be interesting to see how the younger drivers fit into the mix.

    The performance of KKM this week is remarkable considering the 11 entries they are fielding in this year’s Chili Bowl. Just think of the work mounting tires alone for that many cars let alone the car maintenance throughout the night and between programs. While a lot of people may not appreciate the knowledge and resources KKM has what they are doing right now in Tulsa is remarkable.

  • Having Rico Abreu as locked in physically and mentally as he was tonight is great for the entire sport. Between a couple of hard crashes that have forced him to sit idle at times and his NASCAR truck deal not working out Abreu had some up and down moments the past few years, but towards the end of last season Abreu appeared to getting back on track and if Wednesday’s performance is any indication this could be a special year for the St. Helena, California resident.
  • David Gravel was excited in his post-race interview as I’ve ever seen him following his second-place finish to lock into Saturday’s Chili Bowl finale. Gravel seems to click with the Frank Manafort Racing who now has two cars locked into Saturday’s feature with Gravel and teammate Brady Bacon. While a lot of attention is on KKM and the Cluason/Marshall/Wood entries FMR is likely the top contender to unseat an entry from either of the “super teams” in Saturday’s finale.
  • The two drivers that have potential to feast on alphabet soup through the Saturday program are Chris Windom and J.J. Yeley. After being disqualified for not having his fuel checked after the heat race and getting upside down in the C-Main Yeley is buried in Saturday’s program (should he opt to participate). Windom, would was considered one of the top contenders coming into this year’s Chili Bowl, got caught up in an incident in the main event and was unable to make the restart after going to the work area and posting a 23rd place finish which will slot him toward the middle of Saturday’s program.
  • I felt Wednesday produced the best racing later in the night that we’ve seen so far at the 2019 edition of the Chili Bowl. While the bottom was the dominant lane the first two nights Wednesday saw the top side as a productive lane later in the evening. Some of the racing in the qualifiers, C and B Mains, and the race for third on back in the feature was intense using both lanes of the race track.