TULSA, Okla. – Last year at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Cannon McIntosh set the world on fire as a 16-year-old by finishing inside the top five on his preliminary night.
Now, with a year under his belt, as well as the wisdom and experience of a season on the road, McIntosh returns to the River Spirit Expo Center this week aiming for far more than just a strong opening act.
McIntosh is seeking his first Chili Bowl Golden Driller, fresh off a near-winning performance during the Tulsa Shootout, where he was leading Outlaw Non-Wing before an engine failure near halfway.
As hard as that result was, however, it has only served to fuel McIntosh’s fire going into this week’s Chili Bowl – his second attempt at the Super Bowl of Midget Racing.
“Man, that was a heartbreaker,” said McIntosh of his Tulsa Shootout run. “Any time you’re in this building and come that close to taking a (Golden) Driller home, it stings you when you can’t seal the deal. We couldn’t control the motor issue, though. That’s just one of those things that’s out of your hands that just happens in racing sometimes. All you can do is take the lumps and push forward.
“We’re ready to go. I want it even more now than I did last year, just because I know we’re capable, I’m capable and we have everything we need to be successful,” he added. “This is home, and you want to win at home, so we’re ready to give it all we’ve got in the tank and see how it all shakes out.”
Considering McIntosh is with the preeminent power team in the building – Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – his confidence seems to be well placed.
Add to that that McIntosh has a pair of second-place finishes to Kyle Larson over the last two months, one at the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway and another during a Gateway Dirt Nationals preliminary night, and the now 17-year-old knows he’s got the speed to contend.
This week, it’s all about putting all the pieces together.
“Looking in from the outside, yeah, I’m not in my family car this year … but when I look at a writeup or look online and see that Kyle Larson said, you know, that I’m the guy to beat when he’s in my race … that says a lot and makes me believe in what we can do,” McIntosh noted. “It’s definitely a confidence booster, especially going into the Chili Bowl. Right now he’s definitely got everyone beat, but we’re aiming for him. We know we’ve got to find a way to beat him if we’re going to win this thing.
“It’s definitely exciting coming into Chili Bowl racing for Keith,” he added. “Obviously his cars have won the last five and I know that he’ll give us just as good a shot to get a sixth one for him this time around. I just have to go and do my job, and if I can do that, I think we’ll have plenty to smile about this week.”
McIntosh has proven his adaptability in recent months, shining on tracks that are technical and challenge both rookies and veterans alike. He knows that skillset will be necessary all week in Tulsa, given how much the fifth-mile temporary dirt oval evolves from session to session and day to day.
“I think I’ve kind of shown that we can race well on a track where it’s different and not everyone’s used to the conditions,” McIntosh said. “It’s good when you can come out and beat a lot of those good guys when it comes to a track with those transitions. I think if we get close to what we had last year out there, we’ll have just the same amount of speed, and I have needed that confidence all year. It’s what I’ve been looking for and I feel good about it now.
“We had a really good car at Gateway and had lots of speed and showed it, but just didn’t get the results we wanted on Saturday,” he continued. “We let them know that we weren’t there to play and we’re ready to start winning some races.”
Winning races is, of course, the expectation when a driver steps into a KKM-prepared race car, but McIntosh isn’t letting any of that pressure get to him.
Instead, he’s embracing the opportunity that’s in front of him as he makes his debut under Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby.
“I’m ready for it. I’m excited,” McIntosh said, a big smile gracing his features. “It’s definitely not easy to win, but when Kyle Larson is the only guy who has really been stopping you from winning some races and he’s definitely the top pick to win the Chili Bowl … I think it’s definitely realistic to think that I can have a shot to win it. I just need a little luck, and I have to be smart all week and take advantage of everything I can get.”
And as far as who will be more nervous during Monday night’s preliminary – Cannon or his father, Dave – the younger McIntosh had a snappy comeback for that too.
“I think he probably will be, for sure,” the teenager chuckled. “I’m just ready to go. You can’t have too many nerves at this place; you just have to go out there and get after it.”
How to Watch the Chili Bowl:
Mobil 1 Road To The Golden Driller – Story Index Page
News, analysis, interviews, behind-the-scenes and more – updated throughout each day.
LIVE PPV Streaming Broadcast – Racinboys.com
Monday – Saturday coverage
LIVE Television Broadcast – MAVTV.com
Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST
Toyota Racing Development has won five consecutive Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals features. Thanks to Mobil 1, Sprint Car & Midget is providing exclusive coverage of the multi-car organization, led by three-time winner and current champ Christopher Bell and two-time Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu, and other Toyota-equipped organizations and drivers as they prepare for and compete in the Chili Bowl. The Mobil 1 Road To The Driller program is in addition to SPEED SPORT and Sprint Car & Midget’s traditional “Live from the Chili Bowl presented by MyRacePass” coverage that surrounds the event.