Tanner Thorson scored the biggest win of his racing career at the 36th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl. Jan 16, 2022 by Brandon Paul
Tanner Thorson reached the pinnacle of his racing career Saturday evening at the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 25-year-old Nevada native drove the race of his life to win the 36th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
"This is the race that I want to win the most. It's the biggest race in Midget racing. I haven't won at Eldora, I haven't won at Belleville and I haven't won here until tonight," Thorson said. "Those are the three tracks that I haven't had success at and want to. This definitely puts a check on my list of tracks I want to win at. I told my car owner if this car wins it will be really awesome to park it and that's it. It's definitely a surreal feeling and I still haven't grasped it I guess."
Thorson emerged victorious after a battle with three-time Chili Bowl winner Christopher Bell throughout the 55-lap main event.
Starting on the pole, Bell jumped out to the early lead as the field followed him around the bottom of the race track. As Bell encountered slower traffic early in the race, Thorson applied heavy pressure while peaking to the inside of Bell.
After a caution on Lap 16, another long green flag run had the leaders slicing and dicing through lapped traffic before the second caution of the race on Lap 35.
Shortly after the restart as Bell worked the cushion, Thorson powered to the inside of Bell on Lap 38 to take over the race lead.
"I just knew it was getting late in the race," Thorson said. "They came over the radio and said how many laps were down. I knew I had to break Bell's momentum a little bit. I knew I needed to break his momentum, and if not it was going to be hard to beat him. I knew I needed to get going."
A fierce battle through lapped traffic began with less than 10 to go. As Bell and Thorson went three-wide through traffic, Brady Bacon went for a wild flip in front of the leaders on Lap 49.
On the ensuing restart, Bell threw a slider on Thorson in turn one before Thorson crossed him back over down the backstretch. Bell made one final attempt to drive around Thorson with four laps to go but lost momentum in turn four.
That was all Thorson needed to pull away and score his first career Chili Bowl win.
"Going against Bell and Rico and Buddy and everybody that you race against there at the start of this race and throughout the race, these guys are the best in the business. There's no two ways about it. I've been fortunate to race with Bell and race with Rico over time. I've learned a lot from [both of them]. The way I was racing the race track, racing the race track, racing [Bell], racing Buddy, it all comes from racing with these guys."
Bell, a three-time Chili Bowl winner, settled for his second runner-up finish in the last three years after leading 37 laps.
"Tonight I feel like I probably loss the race because Tanner was in second and searched around a little bit better than I did," Bell said. "The beginning of the race was extremely stressful when the track was really wet, we caught lapped traffic, Tanner was inside me four or five times and I didn't want to get off the bottom. Nobody in front of us was off the bottom. It's the Chili Bowl, it's the 24 best Midgets in the world so the guy running 24th isn't going to slide up and make a mistake. I was just trying to be patient and I knew if I couldn't pass a lapped car he'd have a hard time passing me.
"I was relieved when the yellow came out and we got out of traffic," he continued. "Then I knew the track would widen out and get a lot better for me. The second round of traffic once I started sliding guys I felt pretty confident about it. Then it just got really slick like right beneath the cushion and I could tell I was slowing down my mid-corner speed in three and four so that I didn't get tight against the cushion. The thought came across my mind to start trying to pick up the middle off of four and Tanner beat me to it."
Two-time race winner Rico Abreu made a late charge to finish on the podium. Tuesday's preliminary winner Buddy Kofoid and Monday's preliminary winner Tanner Carrick completed the podium.