TULSA, Okla. — Adding to the list of first time winners at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, Travis Berryhill solidified his spot in Saturday’s championship feature with a preliminary night victory during Wednesday’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa Qualifying Night at the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire.
The 42nd different preliminary night winner in Chili Bowl history, Berryhill was chased to the line by fellow Californians Jake Swanson and Colby Copeland with all three punching their ticket into Saturday’s A-Main for the first time.
“Man it takes a lot of pressure off,” chuckled the driver of the Manic Racing No. 31. “I’ve been in a B Main here, but I’ve never been in a Saturday night A-Main, so I’m pretty proud of that. I’ve been to in the B and been close and down to the Q main event, or whatever they are down to these days, and everywhere in between. So when you are down there in those things it’s a struggle and it’s stressful because you never know what you are going to get; especially the further you get down. I’ve been all the way through them.
“Last year we had a pretty poor qualifying night. We were fast but we just couldn’t put it all together,” Berryhill added. “Then Saturday night we really bared down and threw some stuff at it that worked and we went through three or four main events last year. I carried a little bit of that confidence over to this year as well.”
Taking off from fifth, Berryhill wasted no time advancing to the point in the Ray Seach-wrenched No. 31. Battling with Andrew Felker on the third round, the Fontana powered No. 31 rolled to the top spot on lap four with a move off the second turn with Kevin Bayer in tow.
Caution on lap six, the chase for the lead was berm to wall on the Tulsa Expo Raceway with Berryhill glued to the hub, while Bayer railed the cushion. Evenly matched at every end of the raceway, the margin for the lead was by inches at times as Bayer built momentum for a pass on lap 10.
Staying true of the bottom of the track, Berryhill took advantage of a bobble by the driver of the Boss Chassis No. 91k to retake the lead on lap 13. Able to gain some breathing room over Bayer, the back of the field was quickly approaching. Finding the tail of the pack on lap 15, the question of where to run became real a lap later. On the back bumper of lapped traffic, the caution flag waved to bring the field to a single-file restart.
Fourth-running Andrew Felker lost power on the restart, advancing Swanson into fourth. Once the race resumed, Berryhill slipped away to a 1.824-second advantage at the line, while the race for second was on between Swanson and Copeland.
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