Larson leads flag-to-flag in 2021 Chili Bowl, main takeaways

Kyle Larson passed pole sitter Justin Grant on the initial opening start to the 2021 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. He’d then lead all 55 laps en route to his second straight Golden Driller in his No. 01 Midget.

Larson, started the race second, but Joe B. Miller brought out the first caution of the race on the drop of the green flag when he flipped in Turn 3. Due to the 24 drivers not completing the first lap, we’d revert back to the beginning for a second start at the 35th annual event.

On the start, Larson got by Grant and he never looked back in earning his third straight top two finish in 10 career A-Main starts.

The win though wasn’t as easy as last year he said. Larson, said that he made a lot of massive mistakes and that he caught cautions at the right time. Once he got into lapped traffic, cautions would fly for crashes.

That helped him stave off several attempts by either Grant or Christopher Bell in trying to pass him which allowed Larson to now go back-to-back.

Bell, rode a distant third for much of the race but on the restart following Buddy Kofoid’s crash in Turn 4 on Lap 39, he moved up to second with nine laps remaining. Then, while pushing Larson hard for the lead and trying to win his third Chili Bowl in four years, Bell flipped violently in Turn 4 and brought out the second caution of the night.

On the restart, Grant got into the cushion and bottlenecked everyone behind. Tyler Courtney flipped behind which brought out the eighth and final yellow of the main event.

Larson, pulled away on the final restart to best Grant for the win.

Grant, earned his third top three finish in his last four Chili Bowl starts. The runner-up was his best career result as he finished third in both 2017 and 2019.

Tanner Thorson came from 11th to finish third. He won the first B-Main to finish in the top four for the fourth time in seven A-Main tries.

Cannon McIntosh backed up his third place finish last year to finish fourth tonight while Daryn Pittman came from 20th to round out the top five.

This year once again showed that the top drivers in the game are leaps and bounds above everyone else.

Last year, Cannon McIntosh (Monday), Kyle Larson (Tuesday), Rico Abreu (Wednesday), Christopher Bell (Thursday) and Tanner Thorson (Friday) won the features on those respective nights. This year, most have all won again with McIntosh-Larson-Abreu-Bell winning Monday-Thursday respectively.

Justin Grant did win last night for his fourth Friday night Chili Bowl feature win in the last five years though.

Larson has now won four straight Tuesday night A-Main features and five in the last seven years as well.

Abreu has won six straight Wednesday night A-Main features himself.

Bell won his sixth straight too on Thursday night and has seven preliminary night wins in the last eight years.

Larson, won last year and now this year again to keep the 2019-2020 theme around again.

Plus, between Larson, Bell and Abreu, they’re the most dominating drivers lately. They’ve combined to win in each of the last seven years now and were two laps away from their fourth straight 1-2 result.

Still, they’ve combined to lead 200 out of the last 220 laps (91%) in the A-Main of the Chili Bowl.

Since 2018, only Logan Seavey has led a lap in the Chili Bowl’s A-Main outside of Larson, Bell and Abreu. He led the first 20 laps in 2019 before Bell and Larson took over from there.

Then, if you factor in the late great Bryan Clauson and you see further dominance. Larson, Bell, Abreu and Clauson combined to lead 89% (390-for-440) laps since 2014. Just Seavey (20 laps led in 2019), Justin Grant (25 laps led in 2017) and Caleb Armstrong (5 laps led in 2014) have led laps outside of this great foursome since 2014.

That’s astonishing.

The heat races prior to the A-Main were nothing short of dramatic. Justin Allgaier and Ryan Newman each missed the transfer spot in each of their Mains with Allgaier bowing out in the H-Main and Newman in the G-Main. Chase Elliott’s Chili Bowl debut ended in the F-Main as he finished seventh, two spots off the transfer.

Another NASCAR driver making his Chili Bowl debut, Brett Moffitt, was bounced in the D-Main after having a very solid week in a Midget himself.

Kasey Kahne and JJ Yeley were both eliminated in the C Main with Kahne crashing on Lap 2 of C-Main 1 with Sammy Swindell and two other drivers. Kahne, hasn’t made the A-Main since 2016 as he was searching for his eighth main event feature of his Chili Bowl career. For Swindell, this was the sixth time that he’s missed the A-Main, two of which coming in the last three years. He had 13 top three finishes between 1989 and 2013.

Chase Briscoe finished ninth in the first B-Main but only seven drivers transferred to the main event, so his night was also ended early.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the second B-Main and finished in the top 10 with a career best seventh.

The story of the night outside of the A-Main though was Jason McDougal. He started in the I-Main this morning and marched all the way to the D-Main in which his 2021 Chili Bowl ended in controversial fashion. McDougal, started fourth and won his I-Main feature to get things rolling. He then went from 11th to second in the H-Main, 12th to second in the G-Main, 17th to second in the F-Main and 17th again to second in the E-Main. He started 17th in the D-Main and made it up to fifth for the final transfer spot to the C-Main but was spun by Ryan Bernal in Turn 3 on the last lap which ended his night with a major disappointment.

McDougal, was well on his way to that final transfer spot and was going to make it if not for Bernal’s costly mistake. He made up over 50 spots on track before that incident.

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