Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow came close, but 20-year old Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Ill., fought his way into the lead on a lap 19 restart and went on to win the Chili Bowl Nationals opening night A feature Tuesday inside the Expo Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
Larson, who finished third in last year's Chili Bowl finale, led the first three laps before Bacon charged past. Bacon was setting a strong pace until lap 18. Larson had just started to pass Bacon in traffic when the yellow flag waved. Bacon retained the lead on the restart, but Larson had the momentum and drove underneath Bacon in turn one to take the top spot.
"Brady was really good but I tracked him down and got by him," Larson said.
Bacon settled for second while NASCAR star Tony Stewart crossed the line third. Stewart took that spot on lap 18 but could not close on Bacon. Larson, Bacon and Stewart all earned a spot in Saturday night's $10,000-to-win Chili Bowl main event.
Veteran Sammy Swindell may have all the luck when it comes to the Chili Bowl, but son Kevin changed that in the VIROC Race of Champions.
Many in the crowd moaned when Sammy, the three-time defending VIROC winner, drew the number one pill during intermission, earning him the pole position for the 20-lap feature. But when the checkered flag fell Sammy was running third behind second-place J.J. Yeley and Kevin, who won for the first time.
Sammy led only the first half lap before NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Yeley wheeled out front. Sammy tried to keep pace while Kevin moved into third.
Father and son swapped spots on lap six, then Kevin drove around Yeley on lap 19 to keep the Swindell family luck alive for another day.
Kevin was pleasantly surprised after a disappointing practice session.
"I felt terrible after hot laps and was complaining," said Swindell in victory lane. "This is not what I expected."
Kevin had to bump his dad before getting past.
"He was not that good on the bottom and I gave him a little shove to let him know he needed to do something different and went around him," Kevin said.
Yeley almost didn't make the race after flipping during the VIROC practice session 30 minutes earlier, but quick repairs were made to get his car in the race.
Stewart started 12th in the 15-car race, but he pulled to the infield on lap nine and was credited with a 14th place finish.
Broken Arrow's Chett Gehrke led much of the second B feature before recording a second place finish. Gehrke led until lap 12 when Zach Daum caught up and passed for the win. Gehrke held second from P.J. Jones to transfer into the A feature.
Seth Motsinger of Salem, Ind. led all the way to win the first B feature but was chased to the finish by Brian McClelland of Broken Arrow.
Pit Notes: A pair of past Chili Bowl champions - 2008 champion Damion Gardner and five-time champion Sammy Swindell - will be in the field for Wednesday night's qualifying. ... NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor Kasey Kahne entered the Chili Bowl at the last minute and will also compete Wednesday.
Tuesday's Chili Bowl results
A Main: 1, Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, Calif. 2, Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow. 3, Tony Stewart, Columbus, Ind. 4, Casey Shuman, Rattlesnake Bend, Ariz. 5, Chris Windom, Canton, Ill. 6, Jonathan Beason, Broken Arrow. 7, R.J. Johnson, Phoenix, Ariz. 8, Markus Niemela, Rauma, Finland. 9, Shane Cottle, Kokomo, Ind. 10, Kevin Ramey, Fort Worth.
VIROC Race of Champions: 1, Kevin Swindell. 2, J.J. Yeley. 3, Sammy Swindell. 4, Chad Boat. 5, Jerry Coons, Jr. 6, Tim McCreadie. 7, Kyle Larson. 8, Tracy Hines. 9, Cory Kruseman. 10, Brad Loyet. 11, Brad Sweet. 12, Damion Gardner. 13, Jason Leffler. 145, Cole Whitt. 15, Tony Stewart.
B Main 1: 1, Seth Motsinger, Salem, Ind. 2, Brian McClelland, Broken Arrow. 3, Ryan Beechler, McKinney, Texas. 4, Matt Mitchell, Yorba Linda, Calif. 5, Kaley Engstrom, Rhome, Texas. 6, David Camfield, Jr., Decatur, Ill. 7, Kevin Studley, Plainfield, Ind. 8, Kurt Mayhew, Demotte, Ind. 9, Bruce Buckwalter, Jr., Royersford, Pa. 10, Aaron Pierce, Daleville, Ind.
B Main 2: 1, Zach Daum, Pocahontas, Ill. 2, Chett Gehrke, Broken Arrow. 3, P.J. Jones, Phoenix, Ariz. 4, Dillon Welch, Carmel, Ind. 5, Alex Sewell, Broken Arrow. 6, Nick Speidel, Muncie, Ind. 7, Tyler Walker, Los Angeles, Calif. 8, Shawn Jackson, Bear, Del. 9, Mark Chisholm, Cheyenne, Wyo. 10, Michael Harders, Australia.
C Main 1: 1, Kurt Mayhew, Demotte, Ind. 2, David Camfield, Jr., Decatur, Ill. 3, Kevin Studley, Plainfield, Ind. 4, Bray Lamb, Moran, Kans. 5, Jimmy Light, Lizton, Ind.
C Main 2: 1, Daren Kingston, Vandalia, Ill. 2, Zach Daum, Pocahontas, Ill. 3, Mark Chisholm, Cheyenne, Wy. 4, Tyler Walker, Los Angeles, Calif. 5, Bobby Michnowicz, Lomita, Calif.
Qualifier Winners: Markus Miemela, Rauma, Finland., Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow., Kevin Ramey, Fort Worth., Casey Shuman, Rattlesnake Bend, Ariz.
Heat Winners: Casey Shuman, Rattlesnake Bend, Calif, Chris Windom, Canton, Ill., Brendan Bright, Collegeville, Pa., Sam Hafertepe, Jr., Sunnyvale, Texas, Sean Dodenhoff, Bakersfield, Calif., R.J. Johnson, Phoenix, Ariz., P.J. Jones, Torrance, Calif., Shon Deskins, Waddell, Ariz.
Chili Bowl schedule
Wednesday: River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night
Thursday: John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night
Friday: Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night
Saturday: Lucas Oil/General Tire Championship Feature Events
Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals
Expo Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds