It was about this time last year that I wrote about the string of midget wins that Christopher Bell had put together in the 2018-19 “off-season.”
He won the 2018 Turkey Night Grand Prix, his second straight, by passing Kyle Larson with 12 laps to go, and then had to fight hard to hold him off for the win. A week later he won again at the indoor Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis, Mo.
Two weeks later he was leading the Junior Knepper 55 race in DuQuoin, Ill., when he broke, which would’ve been his second consecutive win in that event as well.
It’s been noted many times how Bell and Larson have had their share of on-track battles, and not just here in the states. They went down to New Zealand at the beginning of 2019 and ran a handful of races.
It was Larson winning two, with Bell second in both, and then Bell won one in which Larson was running second before his car broke.
They met back up in the U.S. at the 2019 Chili Bowl Nationals.
It was in 2018 that Larson had looked to be on his way to winning his first-ever Golden Driller, the Chili Bowl Nationals trophy, when his engine let go late in the race and Bell went on to win.
In the 2019 Chili Bowl, Larson again looked to be on his way to that elusive first win when he slipped off the bottom entering turn one on the final lap of the 55-lap contest, with Bell able to muscle his way past to win his third straight Chili Bowl.
During a lot of these battles here on American soil, they were both driving for the mighty and powerful Keith Kunz Motorsports team.
To the surprise of many, they both have since left KKM.
It took a lot of courage by both to leave a team that they essentially cut their teeth in and had the majority of their midget wins with. Bell moved to the Tucker/Boat Motorsports midget team owned by Cory Tucker and Chad Boat, who Bell calls his best friend.
Boat and Bell co-own the sprint car team that they debuted last season in which they won the very first race they ran, at Fremont Speedway, and then won the World of Outlaws race at Tri-State Speedway in the first Outlaw race they entered, only their fourth race together.
Bell is quick to point out that they had a lot of things go their way to have the early success they did, especially when crew chief Boat had basically no winged sprint car experience.
Larson has been winning sprint car races for years in a car owned and wrenched by Paul Silva. Silva is now the team manager for Larson’s World of Outlaws team, with driver Carson Macedo.
So, when Larson decided to start his own midget team, it was a no-brainer that Silva would be turning the wrenches.
It was a no-brainer, except for the fact that Silva and never worked on, tuned the engine on, nor done chassis setup on a midget previously! That didn’t seem to matter one bit, as they have won an unbelievable nine out of 11 races run during this 2019-20 off-season, with two fourth-place finishes being their worst.
A few of those wins were big ones too.
They won the Hangtown 100, and the overall event points, at Placerville Speedway and the total of $32,000 that came with it. That was Bell’s debut weekend in the Tucker/Boat midget. He crashed the first night and was second to Larson in the finale.
Notice a theme here?
Larson and Silva’s next big win was the historical Turkey Night Grand Prix and, of course, the pair then went on to win the 2020 Chili Bowl that Larson proclaimed in victory lane as the biggest win of his career.
There were plenty of drivers and teams more than capable of winning this year’s Chili Bowl, with many who looked to be real contenders.
But, just as in the past few years at the Chili Bowl and so many other races around the country, it was Bell and Larson who found themselves running one and two late in the race.
Bell started on the outside of the front row and led much of the race, but third-place starter Larson eventually got by Bell for the win.
I find it interesting that Bell had the early success in he and Boat’s sprint car, when Boat had no winged sprint car experience, and Larson and Silva have been very successful with their midget when Silva had no experience tuning on a midget.
It just goes to show that if you have drivers with lots of talent and smart people working and tuning on the race car, it doesn’t matter how little experience they have, they will most likely find a way to win.
Keith Kunz Motorsports is made up of Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby, and both were among the first to converge upon victory lane to congratulate Larson on his win.
Of course, they were already close by the victory lane stage because they ended on the podium in third-place with the young and very talented 17-year-old, Cannon McIntosh, who also won his Monday night preliminary race.
McIntosh was also leading the Turkey Night Grand Prix in his first attempt at that race, before Larson got by with 11 laps to go in the 98-lap affair.
With Bell moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series level this year, it will be fun to see how long it takes before he and Larson are battling for wins in the fendered cars.