NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell made it look easy on Thursday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, taking the preliminary feature victory during the fourth qualifying round at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
After starting in the fourth position, the Norman, Oklahoma native quickly drove the No. 71W Keith Kunz Motorsports dirt midget to the top spot to take victory in his respective eight-lap heat race. With an opportunity to collect more passing points for a higher starting position in the A feature event, Bell started sixth in the first 10-lap qualifier race and finished third.
The mixture of a heat-race win and his qualifier finish set Bell up for a third-place starting spot in the A feature. A problem at the start of the race saw pole-sitter Danny Stratton penalized for an aborted start, which gave Bell the pole for the second attempt at the green flag.
Bell had to hold off the likes of Stratton, Jerry Coons Jr., Shane Golobic and C.J. Leary throughout the 25-lapper, an A feature that saw a total of 10 caution periods.
“I pretty much suck on restarts,” Bell told the crowd during an interview after the race. “I do better when I get into a rhythm.”
— iRacing.com (@iRacing) January 18, 2019
Christopher Bell wins John Christner Trucking Qualifying Night at the Chili Bowl Nationals! pic.twitter.com/SXMiaaF0E8
— KeithKunzMotorsports (@KKM_67) January 18, 2019
Bell’s victory locks him into Saturday night’s championship feature, along with second-place finisher Golobic. Leary, driving an entry owned by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman, came up just short of automatically advancing with a third-place result.
Fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier also competed Thursday night, finishing third in the second heat race of the night after starting fifth. Allgaier finished second in the first qualifier after starting on pole, one position ahead of Bell.
The A feature didn’t go as smoothly, though, as Allgaier started 11th and finished 13th. He’ll have to rely on the Saturday’s last-chance races to make the championship feature field.
Karsyn Elledge, niece of NBC Sports race analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the ninth heat of the evening after starting second. Elledge started fourth in her respective qualifier race, but a crash forced her to the B-Main event.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) January 18, 2019
Got caught in someone else’s mess in the qualifier and couldn’t continue. Onto the B.
— Karsyn Elledge (@KarsynElledge3) January 18, 2019
In a last-ditch effort to make it into the A-Main, Elledge started the B-Main in the eighth position, but finished with an 11th-place result after getting caught up in a pileup at the start. The 18-year-old driver will have one more shot to make it into the championship feature finale.