TULSA, Okla. – On a night where it seemed that the expected contenders ended up at the front of the field when it counted, two drivers still made early runs through the alphabet at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Both Carson Garrett and Ryan Leavitt came from the second C-main all the way up into Monday’s 30-lap Cummins Qualifying Night feature, passing a myriad of cars and salvaging their hopes for a strong Saturday.
Garrett won that C-main, while Leavitt was right behind him in second place to transfer on also. The duo then came from 13th and 12th, respectively, to finish second and third in the second B-main and crack the 24-car starting field for the headlining main event.
Garrett was actually leading his heat race early in the night when he went around and collected Aaron Reutzel in the process. After that incident, it was a game of catch-up for the Little River, Colo., native.
“In the heat race, we had a pretty good car and just got tangled up while we were in the lead. Just one guy tagged us,” Garrett noted. “We were already sideways, but you know, that just set us back and we had to go back from there. I knew that would set us up in the back of the C, which is the worst spot you can be in here, so we had a lot of work to do.
“I honestly didn’t expect this because we had multiple things wrong with the car, but we got them fixed and somehow made the A,” he added. “I’m pretty happy with wherever we’re going to sit on Saturday, because when you look at it, this could have been a whole lot worse scenario for us.”
While more mechanical gremlins prevented Garrett from starting the A-main in the end, Leavitt was able to roll off and ended up 21st. Both drivers will line up in one of two E-mains on Saturday night.
– The “most quotable moment” of Chili Bowl Monday came from New Castle, Oklahoma’s Trey Marcham, whose car took down a portion of the fence after flipping in turn two with eight to go in the feature.
Marcham exited his car and was incensed with Reutzel when he spoke on the Racinboys broadcast, frustrated with the Texas’ sprint car veteran’s driving after a diving pass led to contact between the two.
“He did it twice to me. He did it once in the qualifier and then he did it here, dude,” noted Marcham. “He had no reason to do that (expletive). He’s always driven like that. He’s a piece of (expletive). I don’t like the guy. If he wasn’t bigger than me, I’d go whoop his ass.”
– While it wasn’t planned, by any means, Marcham’s flip did lead to an impressive display of expertise by the Tulsa Expo Raceway track crew – featuring a master class on fence repair.
After a roughly 20-foot section of fencing was damaged by Marcham’s tumbling race car, the safety workers got down to business, completing the entire repair job in a scant five minutes and 41 seconds.
You’d be hard-pressed to find that level of efficiency anywhere else in the country.
– While the two “super teams” in the building – Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports and Clauson-Marshall Racing – both locked their drivers into the big show for Saturday night, multiple big names were relegated into the alphabet soup for championship day.
Among those on the outside looking in after one qualifying night are double All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Reutzel, two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion Brady Bacon, eight-time New Zealand midget champion Michael Pickens, POWRi stalwart Zach Daum and USAC ace Kevin Thomas Jr.
Even NASCAR star Chase Briscoe will have to race his way in Saturday, finishing ninth in the main to slot into a C-main for the finale festivities.
– Perhaps the most lighthearted moment of Monday’s action came between practice and the racing program, when 15-year-old Daison Pursley was spotted near one of the racing simulator booths in the Chili Bowl trade show area.
Asked why he was hanging out over there, as opposed to by the KKM pit area (who Pursley will drive for full time on the USAC National Midget trail this season), the Oklahoma teenager offered a small grin.
“Well, I’m bored,” he relayed, “and this is the one place I can at least hold a steering wheel and turn laps!”
Pursley will be of age to compete the 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Jan. 11-16, 2021.