It was one of the most unorthodox victory lanes imaginable.
Kyle Larson captured the Tuesday night Chili Bowl preliminary feature at the Tulsa Expo Center and advanced into the main event but was entirely stoic upon climbing out of his car.
He held off Thomas Meseraull over a pair of green-white-checkers but had very little interest in celebrating.
Meanwhile, you would have thought Meseraull was the winner, his exuberance more than making up for the void emanating from victory lane.
So, what irked Larson so mightily?
For one, his car just wasn't responding the way he wanted most of the night, either in his heats or the Chili Bowl Invitational Race of Champions. This is a brand-new car and not the one Larson took to victory lane here last year.
"I’m sure someday down the road, we’ll look back at that car when it’s sitting in my shop or wherever I end up putting it and we’ll remember that it’s got a lot of history," Larson added. "But Paul (Silva, crew chief) and I were both in agreement to park that car and start the Kyle Larson Hall of Fame or whatever you want to call it."
The biggest problem for Larson was that the track was too dry, too locked down, and just not conducive to good racing.
Larson didn't learn much to prepare him for the pole dash and main event on Saturday.
"I’ve been here a lot and I don’t think I’ve ever been on a track like that," Larson said. "I don’t think I’ll ever see a track like that again for a long time. I’m sure they’ll do a lot better job the rest of the week and make sure it doesn’t take rubber.
"It was good to get the win and lock ourselves in."
Here's the explanation from the track's groundskeeper, who also overturned 6" of dirt overnight in the hopes of repairing the track.
We missed the moisture on the bottom tonight before the A feature. The photo tells the story, the top 1/8” sealed over and took rubber. We will learn from this and come back better tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/x3wSG5SDL9
— Brad Chandler (@Chilibowlgravel) January 13, 2021
Just in case anyone is wondering, the @cbnationals expo raceway has had the top 6” of material flipped over and should be fresh for Wednesday’s normal qualifying program, no extra races or practice. Should be fun. @HahnRacing29 @FloRacing @bryanhulbert pic.twitter.com/0NAjvf9syV
— Brad Chandler (@Chilibowlgravel) January 13, 2021
With the track taking so much rubber, everyone was locked down on the bottom, and the most optimal way to pass was to run into the back of a leading car.
That was the choice Meseraull was faced with on Tuesday night on each of those green-white-checkers.
TMez took one shot, and he had thought about taking several more, but opted to race Larson clean.
"I wanted to push Larson out of the way so bad but that ain't the right way to do it and I wouldn't want to get done that way," Meseraull said.
CARRICK VERUS GOLOBIC
Meseraull was only in this position because of a series of incidents that transpired between Tanner Carrick and Shane Golobic.
Carrick hit the choose cone on a restart from third place on a Lap 6 restart, which resulted in a back of the line penalty, and felt Golobic from behind pushed him into it.
The video evidence did not entirely support the argument.
Trapped in the back on a track that took too much rubber, Carrick couldn’t pass and was involved in an incident with Gloobic as the leaders were lapping him late in the race.
Larson was leading Golobic, but Carrick came down and collided with the runner-up, and eliminated both from contention. The entire series of events was costly for both as it sends both into the alphabet soup.
Carrick falls to a D and Golobic to an E and they were poised to start in the B had nothing happened.
They were predictably peeved with each other.
"We were just kind of cruising along in the rubber, just trying to hold on to second right behind Kyle," Golobic said. "I don’t know if we had a shot, because it was just cruising the bottom and I wasn’t really willing to do anything too crazy to try and win it — second was going to be good enough. But Kyle got under a lapped car, and typically lapped cars know the leaders are coming in and don’t completely chop down to the bottom.
"I knew I had T-Mez behind me, so I hummed it in there … nothing crazy, I wasn’t trying to run anybody over, but I was just trying to at least hold on to second, which is so important here. The B Mains are not things you want to be in. But I got under Tanner Carrick there and he decided to chop down, I guess. And that was it. Looking back, I should really have considered who I was racing with and know that a driver like that is going to do things like that.
"I’m going to put that on myself and say that, maybe, I should have just coasted through there and tried to make my car as wide as possible. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but I wanted to hold second. So, it’s on me and I should be smarter racing with some of these guys, and especially some in particular."
Carrick was equally unapologetic.
"On the early restart, I think I had a little help from behind and got pushed into the cone. It doesn’t take much on these restarts; if you barely get tapped from behind, you’re already pointing the wrong way. No harm, no feelings there, but that really ruined my whole race, honestly," Carrick said. "Getting put to the back on a track that’s one lane to where you can’t pass is not what you want to have happen.
"Then when Kyle passed me, I tried falling back in line behind him and I got absolutely ran through by Golobic. He was trying to blame it on me, I guess, but if they go watch the replay they’ll realize what happened,” Carrick added. “You can’t do much there when you’re the guy in the front. It’s different if you’re the guy running through someone from behind, but that’s racing.
"They’ll realize it and they’ll get over it."
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 01-Kyle Larson; 2. 7X-Thomas Meseraull; 3. 5D-Zach Daum; 4. 39B-Cole Bodine; 5. 68W-Danny Stratton; 6. 9JR-Derek Hagar; 7. 72-Chase Johnson; 8. 14E-Hank Davis; 9. 9P-Daison Pursley; 10. 19-Frank Flud; 11. 7U-Kyle Jones; 12. 55D-Nick Drake; 13. 08K-Michael Faccinto; 14. 8J-Jonathan Beason; 15. 20H-Noah Harris; 16. 21F-Anton Hernandez; 17. 56D-Mitchell Davis; 18. 98K-Tanner Carrick; 19. 57D-Aiden Purdue; 20. 45H-Shane Cottle; 21. 2MD-Carson Kvapil; 22. (DNF) 17W-Shane Golobic; 23. (DNF) 73X-Brody Fuson; 24. (DNF) 51-Curtis Jones
Flip Count: 23
Kicked Out for Not Wearing Masks Count: 2
LARSON AND BELL VERSUS THE WORLD
Until otherwise stated, the current state of affairs at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals continues to be Kyle Larson versus Christopher Bell.
They've combined to win the past four Golden Drillers and the race has been decided between the each year during that span.
Larson won his Tuesday preliminary for the fourth year in a row and seventh time over the past decade. Bell has won his Thursday preliminary for six of the past seven years.
Larson won his feature and Christopher Bell won the Invitational Race of Champions on Tuesday night -- a prelude that takes previous winners and touring champions and places them in a short sprint to whet the appetite for the remainder of the week.
Bell completed a race on the same locked-down track on Lap 10 of 25 with a slider and drove away uncontested to a 4.5 second win.
"This place is awesome, man," Bell said. "I haven’t been able to stand in this victory lane in a long time. It’s actually been a year, basically, but my prelim night a year ago in this building is the last time I was up here or in victory lane in a midget. So it’s been really nice to be able to win again and hopefully we can replicate this later in the week."
VIROC XIII (25 laps): 1. 84x-Christopher Bell , 2. 71k-Cannon McIntosh , 3. 01-Kyle Larson , 4. 5d-Zach Daum , 5. 2j-Justin Grant , 6. 21h-Brady Bacon , 7. 08-Tanner Thorson , 8. 1r-Brad Sweet , 9. 21-Daryn Pittman , 10. 87-Aaron Reutzel , 11. 97-Rico Abreu , 12. 3n-Jake Neuman , 13. 1s-Spencer Bayston , 14. 89-Chris Windom .