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Wild Chili Bowl Prelim Nets an Underdog Winner

Hank Davis called it the biggest moment of his career and life.


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Did anyone even have a Hank Davis, Spencer Bayston and Jade Avedisian podium combination on their respective Chili Bowl Midget Nationals BINGO cards? Candidly, probably not given the recent emergence of Buddy Kofoid as Mr. Tuesday Night, Michael Pickens in the field or even Alex Bowman who has been on kill this week.

But one-by-one, most of the expected favorites were eliminated and it paved the way for an ultimate underdog victor to emerge in Oklahoma native Davis.

Consider that before Tuesday night, the best Davis had finished on Championship Saturday was an extremely impressive B17 on 2021 before a D6 in 2022. He’s a capable shoe but not one many were picking to directly transfer into the feature, much less win the entire prelim on Tuesday.

And yet, despite all the chaos of the night, Davis still was tasked with holding off World of Outlaws winner and 2017 USAC Midget champion Bayston to do it. It was the biggest night of his life and career but Davis absolutely earned it.

"This is great," Davis said. "I live 20 minutes from here, so my own bed isn't very far. I'm going to go home and cherish this one for a long time."

Meanwhile, several other would-be contenders are going to lament this one for quite a while too. Kofoid was on a stretch of finishing third, second and first on Tuesday night in Tulsa and looked poised to go back-to-back for the first time in his qualifying career.

Then came lap 5 when Daison Pursley and Damion Gardner tangled in front of the leader and Kofoid had nowhere to go but in the wall and out of the race.

"I saw the yellow flash, and I was already down the middle of the straightaway and could see him in 1 and a couple of things ran through my mind," Kofoid said. "It was either slow down in time and get under him, but it was so slick and I was sliding and thought I was going to slide into him. Then I figured I would drive under him, and Damion's car, being black, blended in and I didn't see him and drove up the fence.

"My left front connected with his right front and that's what knocked the front end out. Looking back, I should have just drove up the fence even more."

But it was a full moon kind of race even before Lap 5.

Pickens was eliminated as a result of hard racing with Davis, of which the blame has been assigned to both drivers, due to the entire sequence leading up to the decisive slider. That was Lap 3.

This chaos began on the very first lap when second running Daison Pursley spun in Turn 3 and left Bowman with nowhere to go but right into it.

Bowman had run an incredible night of heats and qualifiers to that point and looked like a legitimate threat to win on Saturday night. Now, alongide Kofoid, he’s going to have to race his way through the Alphabet Soup from an E Feature too.

"Bummer right," Bowman said. "We were really fast all night. The car has been phenomenal and that’s a good sign for CJ (Leary) and Jake (Swanson). I think the 25 extra laps last night (in the Race of Champions) helped me get more comfortable and be more aggressive. I thought we had a decent shot to win or a podium but Daison spun out and I had nowhere to go.

"That’s part of racing a little bit, and it took me a little bit to stop feeling mad, because I wished we would have gotten pushed back to the work area sooner. I felt like I was sitting there forever but I guess they had other stuff going on."

That last bit was sarcasm.

Even Jake Bubak was bit by the night, crashing into the Turn 2 wall while running fourth, on Lap 16th after starting P8.

While finishing second, Bayston didn’t exactly have a straightforward race either, starting 12th and moving up and down the running order throughout the feature.

"Yeah, eventful is definitely one word for it," Baytson said. "Early on, the leaders kept dropping like flies, and we were able to capitalize and move up. We got to fifth early and it was just a battle around the top-five.

"We got to Hank, but on a long run and I thought I was a bit faster, but just needed to get ahead of him on a restart and I could have checked out."

And while he was disappointed with the runner-up, he's also locked in on a night where Kofoid, Pickens and Bowman were sent packing to the Es.

"Yeah, it's a night where you have to remember the big picture," Bayston said. "We have a really good car and a good opportunity to make some noise on Saturday. We're in the show."

And now, Avedisian will start at the front of a B with a chance to make some of her own history on Saturday. It's a continuation of theme established early in the day when she rolled onto the track for the first time and immediately unofficially smashed a track record set by Kofoid.

"It's great and hard to describe, honestly," Avedisian said "I wish I was one spot better so I don't have to worry about the B but starting up front will be good. I'll just try to do the same thing I did tonight, consistent laps, and see what happens."

Despite his disappointment, Bayston saw the way the race was going and didn't want to ruin it for himself and Davis. He also knew what this podium meant to both Davis and Avedisian.

"I was surprised how much ground I made up on him on one of those laps, and didn't think I was going to come close to clearing him," Bayston said. "But I kind of committed to stopping and leaving him a lane. I just didn't want to tip us both over and send us to the back too.

"Congrats to them and Jade too. I sat in this chair when I was 16, running in my first Chili Bowl and I remember how special that night was. Sitting here is one of the coolest feelings ever, especially for an Oklahoma native like Hank.

"Happy for these guys."

A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 29S-Hank Davis[3]; 2. 1S-Spencer Bayston[12]; 3. 84-Jade Avedisian[9]; 4. 7U-Kyle Jones[14]; 5. 88J-Jonathan Beason[11]; 6. 71-Kaylee Bryson[7]; 7. 26-Chance Crum[19]; 8. 39T-Tim McCreadie[21]; 9. 47-Zach Daum[17]; 10. 21J-Kameron Key[6]; 11. 5LK-Jordan Kinser[13]; 12. 19A-Daison Pursley[2]; 13. 27B-Jake Bubak[8]; 14. 1Z-Justin Zimmerman[16]; 15. 71E-Mariah Ede[24]; 16. 23P-Preston Lattomus[15]; 17. 5V-AJ Bender[22]; 18. (DNF) 7W-Brendon Wiseley[23]; 19. (DNF) 71G-Damion Gardner[20]; 20. (DNF) 71W-Michael Kofoid[1]; 21. (DNF) 4X-Michael Pickens[5]; 22. (DNF) 57W-Devon Borden[10]; 23. (DNF) 55X-Alex Bowman[4]; 24. (DNF) 3P-Darin Naida[18]

Lap Leader(s): Daison Pursley 1; Buddy Kofoid 2-7; Hank Davis 8-30
Hard Charger: Tim McCreadie +13