Christopher Bell after his victory Thursday night at Tulsa Expo Raceway. (Frank Smith Photo)
Christopher Bell after his victory Thursday night at Tulsa Expo Raceway. (Frank Smith Photo)

CHILI BOWL NOTES: Bell Gets Up To Speed With KKM

TULSA, Okla. — After two years away from Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, it took Christopher Bell a little extra time to get back up to speed with the team.

Bell admitted following his Thursday night preliminary victory that he was surprised how different his car was when he first strapped into it compared to what he remembered when he last drove for team owners Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby.

The native of Norman, Okla., has spent the last two years during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals driving for friend Chad Boat.

“I was surprised whenever I got in the car Monday how much different it felt than what I was accustomed to,” Bell said. “Whenever I went to Chad’s two years ago, basically all I did was try and get Chad’s car to drive like what I was accustomed to with Keith’s cars. 

“I felt like my car felt really normal at Chad’s and it felt like a KKM car. Then I come back to Keith’s a couple of years later and I was a little bit lost at the beginning of the week.”

Despite winning Thursday’s preliminary feature, Bell feels like there is still work to do to get his car the way he wants it for Saturday’s main event.

“Even to this point today, I still don’t feel 100 percent comfortable just making moves and basically maneuvering the car around from the bottom to the top,” Bell said. “I don’t feel like I have in the past, so it’s been an adjustment.”

• When Bell crossed the finish line to win Thursday’s preliminary feature, it gave Kunz and Willoughby their fourth-straight Chili Bowl preliminary feature victory of the week. However, Kunz wasn’t present to see it as he was reportedly attending a rodeo with his daughter. 

• Buddy Kofoid revealed that he and his Keith Kunz Motorsports team chose to race on Tuesday in order to compete against Kyle Larson.

The last two years Kofoid has raced on Thursday night at the Chili Bowl, but the return of Christopher Bell to the KKM stable led to a change. Bell traditionally competes on Thursday, so that presented an opportunity for Kofoid to swap nights.

The team chose Tuesday night, according to Kofoid, because they were going to have to race against Larson eventually and they wanted to see how they stacked up. Kofoid’s victory on Tuesday proved he can beat Larson. Now he’ll have to do it again during Saturday’s 55-lap finale.

• Kevin Olson isn’t racing at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals this year. Instead, he could be found selling t-shirts to fans outside the pits. His sign claimed that all the shirts had been touched by Kyle Larson, were asbestos lined and COVID-proof.

The 70-year-old, who is recovering from a recent back injury sustained after falling out of a tree, said he hopes to get back in a race car for a few events later this year. The 1982 USAC national midget champion jokingly said he is currently in the midst of his 11th farewell tour.

• The orange cone that was put on the frontstretch for restarts during the D main took a beating. It got hit so many times that eventually one of the track officials gave it CPR. There was no word on the condition of the orange cone following the completion of Thursday’s program.

• Damion Gardner scarfed a hefty helping of alphabet soup Thursday evening and was left with a sour taste in his mouth.

After problems in his heat race sent him to the pits early, the 2008 Chili Bowl champion was forced to battle through the preliminary events if he had any hope of qualifying for Thursday’s feature.

He did just that, going from eighth to second in his D main despite a flat tire at the start of the race. He then went from 12th to second in his C main before racing from 16th to third in his B main to secure the 22nd starting spot in the 30-lap JCT Qualifying Night feature.

Unfortunately, his run came to a crashing conclusion late in the feature when he flipped in turn three alongside Mitchell Davis and Andrew Deal. The crash left Gardner’s car badly damaged and the team opted to withdraw from the remainder of the week.

• Steve Buckwalter’s crew thrashed to repair his No. 25b midget after Buckwalter crashed early in the final qualifier. After winning his heat, Buckwalter started sixth in the final qualifier when he crashed and flipped in turn one.

Buckwalter’s car required major repairs and his crew scrambled to get the car ready for the first B main. They narrowly made it and Buckwalter wheeled his car from seventh to fourth, enough to secure a place in Thursday’s preliminary feature.

He finished 13th after starting 23rd. 

• Spotted walking the pits were sprint car driver Gio Scelzi, who didn’t have a ride for the Chili Bowl this year, as well as NASCAR Cup Series team owner Justin Marks and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Stevie Smith.

• The World Wide Technology Raceway Flip Count stands at 36 after Thursday’s action. A whopping 13 cars flipped throughout the course of the day, more than any other day so far this week.

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