Bell Versus Larson Isn't the Only Chili Bowl Storyline
Jan 11, 2022
Kaylee Bryson has a chance at history on Saturday night, but she doesn't view it that way.
The 20-year-old from Muskogee, Oklahoma will start near the front of her B-Main on Saturday night needing just a top-seven finish out of 15 starters to become the first female competitor to start the main event of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
Further, upon starting her B-Main on Saturday night, she will join Bev Griffis in 1989 as only the second female racer to start the semi-main on Championship Saturday at the Tulsa Expo Center. Bryson made it to the C-Main last year and the list of her contemporaries to compete in the televised portion of the event is quite small.
1989: Bev Griffis, B
2005: Michelle Miller, C
2010: Randi Pankratz, C
2014: Harli White, C
2016: Harli White, B
2017: Holly Shelton, C
2018: Holly Shelton, C
2021: Kaylee Bryson, C
Bryson competed in the full USAC National Midget Championship for Keith Kunz Motorsports this past season with three top-10s and a top-five. She also earned 14 top-10s and seven top-5s in the second-tier POWRi National Midget Championship.
She is also a member of the Toyota TD2 development program, and her exploits is of great interest to the manufacturer, who has long sought to development a female capable of winning races at a national level.
But first, making the main event, would be a significant return on that investment for Toyota.
With that said, Bryson very much races with the mindset that every driver is the same when they put their helmets on and take the green flag. She appreciates the chance at history, but wants to be a racer first and a female racer far secondary.
"I don't look at it as the first woman," Bryson said. "It would be cool to have the title but I'm here to race, and I put my helmet on like everyone else. I want to be the best racer that I can be and I want to make the feature for myself. It's a goal that I have set for myself."
"She's done a great job this week," Kunz said. "She's stepped up and she's in a good spot. If she races on Saturday like she did (Tuesday), she'll get in."
Bryson started the feature third behind Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, but lost spots to Chris Windom and Thomas Meseruall before settling into fifth for most of the race. Jake Swanson raced into the top-five on the final restart and Bryson finished sixth.
Kunz said Bryson just lacks the experience of those veterans, even against 20-year-old Kofoid, who has raced Sprint Cars since he was nine years old.
"The more laps she has racing with those guys, the more she will learn what positions to place herself in and how to race against them," Kunz said. "She’s going to get there with experience."
Even though she fell short of the transfer spots in her preliminary, she has confidence about her opportunity on Saturday night.
"I’m feeling pretty good," Bryson said. "Sixth in the feature against that competition is pretty badass. … It’s pretty cool racing with the best of the best. Starting third with Kyle Larson in front of me, Buddy in front of me and Chris Windom beside me, I’m racing with the best of the best.
"That makes you a better driver and I’m loving every bit of this."