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Kaylee Bryson (Brendon Bauman photo)

CHILI BOWL NOTES: Kaylee Bryson Dazzles

TULSA, Okla. — Kaylee Bryson believed she was capable of qualifying for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals 55-lap finale Saturday night.

Not only did she do it, she did it in style.

Bryson started 10th in the second B main Saturday night. She promptly jumped to the top groove and roared around everyone in front of her to take the lead on the seventh circuit. She went on to win the 20-lap race for Keith Kunz Motorsports and in doing so became the first female competitor to qualify for the Chili Bowl feature.

The previous best effort by a female competitor was Harli White’s 19th-place finish in a B main in 2016.

“I’m more worried about myself as a driver. I don’t think I’m any different than anyone else,” Bryson said in the moments after qualifying for her first Chili Bowl feature. “I put on my helmet and just go out there as a driver and race a hard race. This is my first time I’ve made the A Main at the Chili Bowl and I’m excited about that. Of course, it’s cool to hold the title as the first female to make the A Main here, but there’s going to be more after me.”

Bryson followed up her stellar run in the B main with an 18th-place finish in the Chili Bowl finale. She was one of five Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian competitors to qualify for the main event.

“I’m just so blessed to be here and so grateful to Toyota and Keith Kunz Motorsports for the opportunity. I just hope we put on a great show for the fans,” said Bryson. “That was the toughest race I’ve ever been in. You’re out there with the best of the best. It’s teaching me every lap how to be a better driver and I get to learn from these guys. There’s no better place to learn than the Chili Bowl. The track was really big on the bottom for the first half. It was a decent track. It wasn’t too bad for passing. The track was completely different from the B. I’m just so happy to have been here and to make the show.”

• Corey Day was the only rookie to qualify for the Chili Bowl main event, guaranteeing the 16-year-old from Clovis, Calif., the Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year Award.

He did it the hard way as the Clauson Marshall Racing driver battled his way from a C main into Saturday’s finale, where he finished 17th.

In addition, by qualifying for the main event Day joined his father, Ronnie Day, as a Chili Bowl feature starter. The duo is one of eight father-son pairings to race in the Chili Bowl feature.

• Five-time Chili Bowl champion Sammy Swindell made the longest alphabet soup run of the day Saturday.

Forced to start from an N main after being disqualified for rough driving in a C main Wednesday, Swindell battled his way to an I main before he was finally eliminated after contact damaged his Swindell Speedlab midget.

By competing in six different preliminary features, Swindell equaled the record for the most features run during championship Saturday. He now shares the honor with J.J. Yeley, Jason McDougal and Wayne Johnson.

• As race winner Tanner Thorson was entering the media room to chat with members of the assembled press after his victory Saturday night inside the Tulsa Expo Center, he casually asked runner-up Christopher Bell, “Want to see my trophy?”

Bell, a three-time winner of the Golden Driller trophy Thorson was holding, quickly quipped back, “I’ve seen it before.”

• Thorson credited teammate and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne with helping him improve throughout the week leading up to his Chili Bowl victory.

“It helped me a lot having Kasey run another car that was set up similar to mine,” Thorson said. “He brought a lot to my attention.”

• NASCAR Cup Series star Chase Elliott’s second Chili Bowl came to a crashing conclusion during the first F main when he flipped wildly in turns three and four. The flip was the result of contact with another car, which sent him into the air, perhaps higher than any driver who had flipped all week.

He walked away from the crash uninjured.

• Another driver to flip during Saturday’s program was NTT IndyCar Series regular Conor Daly, who said afterward on Twitter that he’s going to be retiring from midget racing following his own spectacular crash in one of the O mains.

Then again, don’t be surprised to see Daly back in a midget before the season is out.

• The hard charger in Saturday’s Chili Bowl main event was Alex Bowman Racing driver C.J. Leary, who advanced nine positions to finish seventh after starting 16th.

• Drivers who qualified for their first Chili Bowl feature were Tanner Carrick, Zeb Wise, Tim Buckwalter, Bryson and Day.

• The final World Wide Technology Raceway Flip Count was 67, with 21 drivers ending up on their respective lids on the final day of action.

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