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Kahne 13th; McCreadie wins Chili Bowl midget race
TULSA, Okla.Watertown, New York's Tim McCreadie fought his way into the lead on the 35th round then slipped away from Jay Drake and Cory Kruseman over the final few circuits to capture the coveted Golden Driller trophy in Tulsa Expo Raceway's 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals 50-lap Championship feature on Saturday night.
The 15th different winner in the storied history of the prestigious event, the triumph by the accomplished Late Model and DIRT Modified racer was considered an upset by many, as he is the first Chili Bowl champion without an extensive background in Sprint Car or Midget racing.
But McCreadie's victory aboard Steve Smith's No. 1a Hawk Engine Development Spike-chassis couldn't come as a complete surprise after he locked himself into Saturday night's championship feature with a fourth place finish in Wednesday night's Creek Nation Casino Qualifying feature in just his second Midget racing outing, following a ninth place Chili Bowl championship feature finish in 2005.
"This is by far and away the biggest race I've won, so I'm happy, real happy," McCreadie stated to the media at the post-race press conference.
"They say a blind squirrel can find a nut every once in a while I guess. I thought I gave it away when I tried going to the top but I was a little too snug for up there and couldn't keep it from wheelie-ing a little bit and thought I gave it back and Cory was gonna drive by and drive off. It's a lot of luck, they made one mistake and I was fortunate enough to be there when it happened."
While McCreadie gridded Saturday's feature on the fifth row outside, it was Thursday's Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Qualifying night winner Drake and Friday's Warren CAT Qualifying Night winner Kruseman leading the way to the green flag from the front row with Danny Lasoski and Jon Stanbrough in the second row.
Drake gunned into the lead at the drop of the green flag, as Kruseman tucked in behind him with Lasoski and Stanbrough in tow. Action was interrupted after just one lap however, when Justin Allgaier climbed over Sammy Swindell's left rear tire and dumped his mount in turn one, also collecting Mike Goodman and Tracy Hines. Allgaier retired for the night, with Goodman and Hines rejoining the fray.
Kruseman kept the pressure on Drake when action resumed, slipping underneath in turns one and two on the fifth lap to apparently take the lead. But Kruseman's move was negated when the caution flew for Kasey Kahne's overturned mount at the exit of turn four, precipitating a caution. Kahne's machine was righted and he rejoined the field in 23rd position.
Drake led the way on the restart, with Stanbrough quickly dashing past Lasoski for third. A lap later, Lasoski lost another position as sixth-starter Steve Kinser charged by. Lasoski lost another pair of positions by the tenth round and would later retire from the race.
Running eighth after Kahne's lap five tumble, McCreadie had cracked the top five by the tenth round, one lap before a caution flew for Jason Leffler's turn four spin. Chasing Drake, Kruseman and Stanbrough, McCreadie climbed to fourth when he clipped fourth-running Kinser entering turn one on the 15th lap. The caution flew for Kinser's resulting spin, with Kinser making a quick trip to the work area to change a cut left rear tire before returning.
"I feel bad for Kinser, he didn't deserve to go out like that and I apologize for it," McCreadie later stated from victory lane.
When Stanbrough jumped the turn one cushion on the ensuing restart and fell deep in the field, McCreadie found himself in third and on the heels of past Chili Bowl champions Drake and Kruseman.
McCreadie went to work in short order, disposing of Kruseman for second on the 17th lap. Not giving up on a third Chili Bowl crown, Kruseman moved to the top of the track and raced back around McCreadie for second on the 23rd lap.
Drake, Kruseman and McCreadie ran in tight formation a half straightaway ahead of four-time Chili Bowl winner Sammy Swindell, who was on the move from twelfth, until the caution flew after 25 laps for Lasoski's disabled mount in turn two.
McCreadie battled back past Kruseman on the 28th lap and quickly went to work on Drake, pulling even on the low side of turns one and two several times. Drake fought off the bids and McCreadie fell to third as Kruseman found his rhythm on the high side and was challenging for the point when Steve Buckwalter came to a halt with 32 laps in the books.
Kruseman later explained, "I wasn't as good as Jay on the bottom, he finally started jerking me off the exits and I thought it was time to get the top to roll in. I finally started getting' it ran down after about five or six laps and I thought we were gonna be in good shape and that damn yellow came out."
The next seven laps were perhaps among the most scintillating in O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals history. With McCreadie working the low line masterfully, Drake took to the cushion and the pair raced wheel-to-wheel for several rounds after McCreadie raced past Kruseman on the 33rd lap. And seemingly chained to their rear nerf bars were the likes of Kruseman and Swindell along with USAC Midget champion Josh Wise, who threw his hat into the mix after starting 21st.
The top five battled in scorching fashion, with McCreadie finally establishing the slightest of advantages on the 35th lap. Hot on his heels was Swindell, who was in second when the caution flew after 38 laps for a turn two tangle involving Bud Kaeding and Garrett Hansen.
When the race's final caution flew three laps later for Kasey Kahne and Johnny Rodriguez, who got together in turn three, Swindell was forced to the work area with a flat left rear tire resulting from a dislodged bleeder valve after banging wheels with Kruseman in the spirited duel for position.
Set for a nine-lap charge to the checkered flag, McCreadie never faltered, running the bottom portion of the track to perfection to amass a ten car-length advantage by the time the checkered flag flew to a resounding ovation from the packed house.
"You look at the two guys that are sitting beside me on each side (Drake and Kruseman) and the people that are here, this is probably the most talent you'll ever see in one spot and if anybody doesn't think that there's something wrong with the way they think," McCreadie explained when asked why he wanted to race in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. "Why wouldn't you want to come and take a chance at it?"
"I was a lot more nervous this year because that car was capable of winning before I got in it, it's a great handling car with a real stout motor. It was more whether I could get up to the speed of the car."
Drake settled for second aboard the Keith Kunz Motorsports Fontana-powered Advanced Racing/Kwik Change Bullet-chassis, with Kruseman taking the show position in Andy Bondio's Barnes-powered Axtell Cams/Kenny's Components No. 47.
Drake explained that, "The last time I was here and ran second (2003) I thought it was the end of the world, this time it's not quite as hard to swallow. This time I basically just got outdrove and last time I threw it away, it's a whole different situation and we're happy with second this time."
"We just got beat by somebody that was more patient than us, we got beat by someone that was switched on tonight," Kruseman later commented. "I think if you're disappointed you're hypocritical because there's 259 other people out there that would give anything to sit at this table and we're very fortunate to do that. Can I be disappointed? Absolutely. But I don't think I'm gonna leave here with that frown, it's not a points race, it's something we come out and we do in the wintertime. The reason we come here is because the best of the best are here."
Racing from 15th, Brad Kuhn took fourth from Wise on the 45th circuit and held the spot to the line. Wise rounded out the top five after passing 16 cars, with Stanbrough recovering from his early bobble to snare sixth.
Defending race winner Tracy Hines turned in the feature's top passing performance by racing from 24th to seventh, with 17th-starter Shane Cottle, Jerry Coons, Jr., and 23rd-starter Dave Darland completing the top ten.
Chili Bowl rookie contender Wayne Johnson turned in a rousing charge through the alphabet soup of Features by advancing all the way from the day's second F Main all the way to the Championship A Feature, passing 53 cars along the way. Johnson's luck ran out in the A Main however, as he was the second car to exit and was credited with 23rd.
After winning the night's second B Main, Tulsa's Mike Goodman was the race's top finishing rookie by taking the checkered flag in 17th. Goodman and Johnson were the only two of more than 70 rookie contenders to make the 24-car championship feature.
Bryan Gard, Joe Walker and Tyler Brown were the day's early stars, each advancing through a number of Feature events. Gard and Walker both competed in six features, climbing from K Main competition until running out of steam in the F Features, where Johnson picked up the Alphabet charge.
Brown came from the back row of the first J Feature to the G Feature before his run ended as the capacity crowd cheered on his daring moves.
Walker kicked off the day by topping the First K Main, with Jesse Hockett winning the second K Main.
Jay Mounce and Terry Tarditi won the Twin J Mains, with Jonathan Henry and Stevie Sussex III victorious in I Main action.
Ron Kuhn scored the win in the first H Main, with Late Model ace Rick Eckert scoring a narrow victory in a torrid second H Main.
California lady racer Audra Sasselli schooled the boys in the First G Main to become just the second female and the first in 17 years to win a Saturday feature in O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals history, with Bev Griffis the first by winning a C Main in 1989. Sasselli then raced to a transfer position in the First F Feature as well before wrapping up the day with a seventh place run in her E Main.
After a second place run and three third place finishes in K, J, I and H action, Gard rode the rim to victory in the second G Main before an F Main tangle effectively ended his day after passing 51 cars.
Levi Jones and Damion Gardner split F Main honors, with Gardner doubling up by topping the Second E Main as well after John Wolfe made a late move to win the First E Main.
Daniel Adler aced the First D Main, while 13-year-old Trey Robb of Newcastle, OK, became the youngest Saturday feature winner in Chili Bowl history by topping Scott Hatton and Wayne Johnson in the Second D Main.
Josh Wise topped J.J. Yeley in the First C Main, with Donnie Lehmann leading youngster Cole Whitt to the line in the Second C Main.
Allgaier posted a convincing win in the First B Main, with Goodman taking the Second B Main.
After his wild Friday night flip, NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart scratched from Saturday's action. Stewart was on hand to sign autographs for much of the day.
A record total of 260 drivers competed in the 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
A Main (50 Laps)
- 1A Tim McCreadie, Watertown, NY
- 71K Jay Drake, Val Verde, CA
- 47 Cory Kruseman, Ventura, CA
- 74K Brad Kuhn, Avon, IN
- 20W Josh Wise, Riverside, CA
- 2X Jon Stanbrough, Jamestown, IN
- 11 Tracy Hines, Greenfield, IN
- 44C Shane Cottle, Kokomo, IN
- 23 Jerry Coons Jr., Tucson, AZ
- 11W Dave Darland, Lincoln, IN
- 17J P.J. Jones, Torrance, CA
- 67S Steve Kinser, Bloomington, IN
- 9 Kasey Kahne, Enumclaw, WA
- 32L Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA
- 8K Bud Kaeding, Campbell, CA
- 70 Garrett Hansen, Manhattan Beach, CA
- 11M Mike Goodman, Tulsa, OK
- 1 Sammy Swindell, Germantown, TN
- 7R Johnny Rodriguez, Galt, CA
- 5M Steve Buckwalter, Royersford, PA
- 33D Danny Lasoski, Higgonsville, MO
- 44D Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, NE
- F5 Wayne Johnson, Oklahoma City, OK
- 86 Justin Allgaier, Springfield, IL