T.J.’s Takeaways From Tuesday’s 2020 Chili Bowl Preliminary Night

Kyle Larson (Serena Dalhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

The second night of the 36th Chili Bowl Nationals is in the books. After dozing off early on Monday to function properly at work, Tuesday starts another season of post event takeaways.

• Tuesday’s preliminary night was the perfect example of why people make the pilgrimage to Tulsa, Oklahoma every winter and those that can’t go stay up late hoping to catch a few hours of decent sleep before slogging to work in the morning.

The racing on Tuesday start to finish was excellent with plentifully action from the heat races, through the qualifiers, and a great main event.

While the race for the lead was a instant classic, Jake Swanson was able to charge up from 11th starting spot to fourth and Thomas Meseraull moved up from 13th into the fifth position.

The clay at the Tulsa Expo Raceway developed a decent cushion throughout the night along with a usable bottom, which put on spectacular racing. Hopefully we get more of the same the remainder of the week.

• Buddy Kofoid’s stock has been rising for several years progressing through winged sprint cars and under the Toyota banner to Keith Kunz Motorsports with the USAC National Midget Car Series. Kofoid’s coning out on top in a late race battle with Kyle Larson raised his status even higher after Tuesday’s preliminary feature.

The Tulsa Expo Raceway is a stage where Kofoid has excelled at. Tuesday’s victory was Kofoid’s third podium finish in a preliminary feature at the Chili Bowl Nationals and he has made the feature all three years.

Add in the added twist of the crash during the VIROC on Monday with the Keith Kunz Motorsports crew having to rebuild the entire car before Tuesday’s event is the icing on the cake of what was as storybook ending to Kofoid’s night.

Unless something unusual happens Kofoid is in position to better his career best finish at the Chili Bowl on Saturday, a 7th place finish in 2020.

• While Larson and Paul Silva are still working out the bugs in their new EMI midget car, they are slowly gaining on it. Based on Larson’s reaction to being passed by Kofoid on Tuesday, it is entirely too early to count out the two time and defending Chili Bowl Champion.

Putting one of the best drivers and crew chiefs in the world on a problem is a good way to solve it, and Tuesday proved they are much closer than they were on the west coast swing to end the 2021 season.

• During preliminary action Chili Bowl officials enacted a rare black flag for rough driving after a couple of incidents with Steven Snyder Jr. Typically, I prefer to see these type things self-policed, but with 400 entries and no series points on the line of any kind I would expect to this to done more often at the Chili Bowl.

With no championship to lose other than wining the finale on Saturday and pit full of crews that will be in Tulsa for a week, tempers will flare. The Tulsa Shootout had an incident in the ramp leading up to the pit area, which race officials had to red flag a race on track to bring in more bodies to help break of the fight.

The fact Snyder was driving for the powerhouse Keith Kunz Motorsports teams shows that race officials are willing to hold people to this standard. Last year there was a similar situation after Jason McDougal was taken out while making his charge through the alphabet during the Saturday finale.

With younger drivers now being allowed to compete at Tulsa, I think we will see these black flags occur a handful of times every year at the Chili Bowl. I just don’t expect it to become a situation where race officials are going to have to make judgement calls on rough driving in every event.