T.J.’s Takeaways From Thursday at the Chili Bowl Nationals

CJ Leary (Serena Dalhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(January 13, 2022) — Another night of racing at the 2022 Chili Bowl Nationals and another thrilling program from start to finish. The excitement of Thursday’s preliminary program provided a better boost than caffeine to plow through another night of takeaways from the racing program.

  • Rarely do you see the action during multiple day events in our sport crescendo with the on-track action seemingly getting better as the event going on. This year’s edition of the Chili Bowl Nationals appears to be on that trajectory.

    The only question I had after Thursday night’s feature was, “How does the racing keep getting better as the week goes on this year?”

    After what was a bit of a lack luster feature Monday (although following a stellar VIROC event) the feature racing at the Tulsa Expo Center has been excellent. I’m not sure what the track crew discovered between Monday and the rest of the week, but they should keep doing it as the on-track action has seemingly improved every night.

    That point was capped off with the thrilling final laps with Christopher Bell, Tanner Thorson, and C.J. Leary’s thrilling race for the win on Thursday.

    The interesting part of Thursday’s feature was watching the top and bottom lanes shift from being dominant during different times of the feature. The past two nights have shown moments where finding the right lane at the right time was a crucial part of the main event, but not making one line so dominant that it takes over the entire event.

    If Saturday’s finale has some of the aspects of the past two preliminary nights, we are all in for a treat.

  • While the race for the lead was good, the Buckwalter family managed to grab pieces of the spotlight as well.

    Steve Buckwalter and his crew’s thrash to overcome a very hard hit to the right rear of their racing with the turn one concrete wall to make the feature and finish 13th was remarkable. The amount of damage Steve’s car suffered in that crash would have made it easy to throw in the towel and compete in some early letter mains on Saturday.

    Steve’s crew would not hear of it and not only made repairs, but got the car good enough for Steve to work some on track magic and possibly gain his crew some more rest on Saturday.

    Tim Buckwalter also got in on the fun after starting 20th coming out of nowhere to finish fourth in the main event. Tim drove a smooth, steady race and somehow avoided a lot of the carnage on his way to earning hard charger honors Thursday.

  • The performance of Alex Bowman Racing has been eye opening this week during the Chili Bowl Nationals. Not only did Bowman increase his effort to three cars for this year’s Chili Bowl including returning to the drivers seat himself, the team that primarily focuses their midget car effort to Tulsa has produced a breakout effort.

    After Bowman looked sporty on Monday scoring a ninth-place finish in the feature, a fourth-place effort by Jake Swanson on Tuesday, and Leary’s podium finish on Thursday ABR appears to be putting themselves in the conversation to be Chili Bowl contenders for victories in future years.

    Now the question becomes can ABR get their entries into the finale on Saturday through some of the later alphabet mains.