TULSA, Okla. — Veterans Tim McCreadie and Jerry Coons Jr. got off to rough starts during Monday’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals opener, but by the end of the night both were in the conversation.
McCreadie and Coons both “ran the soup” on Cummins Qualifying Night, transferring out of the C Mains into the B Mains and then racing through the B Mains to make the 30-lap feature.
The night for McCreadie, the 2006 Chili Bowl winner, went sideways thanks to relatively low passing point totals in the heat races. Had he passed one more car, he would have landed inside the top 40 in points and been in the field for one of the four 10-lap A Qualifiers with a shot to make the A.
Instead, McCreadie had to run a C Main, which he raced from fifth to second to transfer to a B Main. From there, McCreadie turned up the wick.
The Watertown, N.Y., native raced from 14th to second in his B Main to make the feature, then climbed from 19th to an eighth-place finish in the A Main.
In doing so, McCreadie extended his streak of top-10 performances in his preliminary night feature to nine consecutive years — every Chili Bowl dating back to 2013.
He also locked himself into the back of a B Main for Saturday night’s program, a remarkable comeback.
Coons’ issues were more straightforward. He was sidelined in his heat race due to contact with Mitchel Moles exiting the fourth corner. Coons’ No. 85 flipped and needed some repair work.
After coming back for the second C Main and promptly winning that contest, Coons rolled through his B Main from 13th to third and nearly took the lead at one point before settling for a transfer position.
The USAC Triple Crown champion’s run in the feature was stifled with an early retirement, leaving him 22nd in the 24-car field and in an E Main on Saturday. Still, it was better than what could have been.
“We came back through and did what we had to do,” Coons noted. “I really don’t have a ton to say about it.”
— A pair of World of Outlaws sprint car regulars made waves Monday, with David Gravel and Carson Macedo finishing in the top 10 in the 30-lap preliminary feature.
Gravel ran fifth in one of seven RMS Racing-affiliated entries, while Macedo looked to be a threat for a lock-in position before jumping the turn-two cushion late and finishing 10th.
Macedo, a Chili Bowl rookie, was undefeated in racing action prior to that. He won his heat race and his A Qualifier driving the Tarlton Motorsports No. 21t.
— Washington’s Gary Taylor took the long road to hard charger honors Monday, coming back from an incident midway through his B Main to steal the final transfer spot into the main event.
He then cruised from 24th (last) on the grid to a 12th-place finish after 30 laps in the A Main.
Taylor is wheeling one of two entries for Dunlap Performance this week. Brian Dunlap, the co-owner of the team, is the director of broadcasting for DIRTvision, the streaming arm of World Racing Group.
— Optimistic coming into the night, C.J. Leary was disappointed with a 16th-place run in his Alex Bowman Racing No. 55v, trapping him in a D Main for Saturday’s program.
It’s the deepest the former USAC national sprint car champion has been on a prelim night since 2018, when he ran 18th. This year was also Leary’s first time racing the Monday program since its inception.
— Perhaps the biggest surprise among those who failed to make the preliminary feature Monday was Oklahoma’s Holley Hollan, returning to midget racing after a yearlong absence.
Driving for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, Hollan contended for a B Main transfer position before ending up two spots short in sixth. She’ll race in an F Main Saturday afternoon.
— The official Chili Bowl Flip Count stands at seven after the first night of competition. All drivers walked away from their respective incidents.
The dubious distinction of the first flip of the week came in hot laps, when Arizona’s Mike Ducharme got upside down and hung in the catchfence between turns one and two.
Unfortunately, Ducharme’s Klatt Enterprises No. 4 was heavily damaged and did not return for its heat race.