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Leffler Love's Chili in Thursday Qualifier!


Chili Bowl Nationals

Leffler Love's Chili in Thursday Qualifier!

Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (January 8, 2004) – Jason Leffler rode the cushion past Aaron Fike on the ninth circuit, then held off Scott Hatton in the closing rounds to top Thursday night’s Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores 25-lap qualifying feature for the 18th Annual O’Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at Tulsa Expo Raceway.

Former Chili Bowl champion Hatton pressured Leffler over the final rounds, but was unable to mount a charge and settled for a close second place finish. Tracy Hines and Tony Stewart both advanced several positions over the last half of the race to snare the third and fourth transfer positions to Saturday night’s finale, close behind the lead duo.

Queried about his use of the cushion, Leffler responded with, “You try to go where everyone else isn’t at, so I went to the top and it worked out.” Leffler went on to say, “Tracy (Hines) said it coming up to the press conference, that the prelim nights are almost more intense than the finale on Saturday. You feel like you’ve got to get yourself locked into the feature. It’s intense, and it’s good to have it over.”

While Leffler lined up eighth in the 22-car starting grid after racing from eighth to third in the second of ten heat races, it was two-time National Midget Driver of the Year Aaron Fike and 1995 Chili Bowl champion Donnie Beechler who led the feature field to the green flag.

Fike, who blasted from sixth to win the fifth heat race, outgunned Beechler for the early lead, with David Camfield, Jr., quickly moving from third to take second from Beechler on the opening round. When the race’s first caution flew after five rounds for debris on the track, Fike held the point in front of Camfield, Beechler, Hatton and Leffler.

After the ensuing restart was waved off for Travis Berryhill’s third turn tumble, Leffler took to the cushion and quickly disposed of Hatton and Beechler to take over third on the sixth round. Leffler raced past Camfield for second the next time around then took command from Fike in turns three and four on the ninth round.

Leffler paced the field until the caution flew on the 13th lap for Brandon Waelti’s frontstretch gymnastics. Leffler led Fike, Hatton, Beechler, Hines and Camfield on the restart, while 2002 Chili Bowl winner Stewart had moved into seventh after starting eleventh.

After a brief stoppage a lap later, Leffler set the pace the rest of the way. Leffler slipped over the cushion twice, and Hatton, who overtook Fike for second on the 17th round, applied heavy pressure to the leader over the final rounds with Beechler, Fike, Hines and Stewart in tow.

Leffler was not to be denied though and raced to the checkered flag aboard Dino Tomassi’s Finish Line Towing/Engler/Red Line Oil Wirth-powered Beast with a two car-length advantage over Hatton’s Mopar-powered Miller Lite Stealth at the line. Hines took over third with a nasty slide on Beechler in the final rounds, then held off Stewart to claim the show position.

Beechler settled for fifth in front of Fike, 15th-starter Gary Wright and 14th-starter Troy Rutherford. Jeff Flesher turned in the evening’s best passing performance by racing from 19th to ninth, with Chad DeSelle completing the top ten.

Cameron Dodson, Waelti, Rutherford, Wright, Fike, Hatton, Beechler, Brandon Petty, Bryan Clauson and Stewart claimed heat race victories for Thursday night’s 69-car field.

After breaking a steering gear in an early heat race tangle, J.J. Yeley charged from 11th to win the first C Main, with Buddy Luebke winning the second C Main. Yeley’s attempt to charge through the first B Main came to an early end when he flipped after contact on the second round.

Jimmy Sills went on to hold off Flesher for the win in the first B Main, while DeSelle topped the second B Main.

Jerry Hammock took an easy roll in the fifth heat race, while Clauson got some altitude while running fourth in the latter stages of the second B Main. All flip victims escaped uninjured.

Photos: Top-Jason Leffler Celebrates Thursday night's qualifying feature victory; Bottom Left-Leffler with the Hooter's girls in victory lane; Bottom Right-The O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals pace car. (All photos from The Wheatley Collection)

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Thursday Night Results at the 18th Annual O’Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals:

Heat 1 (10 Laps): 1. #43 Cameron Dodson, Greenfield, IN; 2. #11Z Travis Berryhill, American Canyon, AZ; 3. #25F Mike Farmer, Colorado Springs, CO; 4. #33H Robert Hanley, Foxfield, CO; 5. #10C Shain Mathews, Marysville, CA; 6. #14 Randy Hannagan, San Jose, CA; 7. #47X J.J. Yeley, Phoenix, AZ.

Heat 2 (10 Laps): 1. #3W Brandon Waelti, Sun Prairie, WI; 2. #12AZ Eric Wilkins, El Mirage, AZ; 3. #29J Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA; 4. #51 Ryan Durst, Lincoln, NE; 5. #1AZ David Rosales, Glendale, AZ; 6. #5M Mike Neher, Monticello, IN; 7. #77 Matt DeWitt, Houston, TX; 8. #31H Bart Hartman, Zanesville, OH.

Heat 3 (10 Laps): 1. #7R Troy Rutherford, Ojai, CA; 2. #10W Bobby Boone, Bakersfield, CA; 3. #81 Chad DeSelle, Sun Prairie, WI; 4. #17X Greg Nelson, Newcastle, CA; 5. #27C Sparky Howard, Santa Rosa, CA; 6. #15M Chris Morway, Glastonbury, CT.

Heat 4 (10 Laps): 1. #35W Gary Wright, Hooks, TX; 2. #86C David Camfield, Jr., Decatur, IL; 3. #5S J.C. Bland, Springfield, IL; 4. #30J Johnny Rodriguez, Elk Grove, CA; 5. #7 Critter Malone, Speedway, IN; 6. #43B Buddy Luebke, Stoughton, WI; 7. #8P Wally Pankratz, Orange, CA.

Heat 5 (10 Laps): 1. #95 Aaron Fike, Galesburg, IL; 2. #57K Randy Koch, Oregon, WI; 3. #95F Justin Fisher, Phoenix, AZ; 4. #45 Jeremy Sherman; 5. #81H Jerry Hammock, Ennis, TX; 6. #0J Todd Jackson, Independence, MO; 7. #55 Tony Everhart, El Cajon, CA.

Heat 6 (10 Laps): 1. #15X Scott Hatton, Roscoe, IL; 2. #72 Jeff Flesher, Lexington, IL; 3. #95X Rik Forbes, Omaha, NE; 4. #99 Kyle Rayburn, Pueblo West, CO; 5. #78C David Camfield Sr., Maroa, IL; 6. #88M Matt Hardin, Galveston, IN; 7. #56K Ken Dull, Machesney Park, IL.

Heat 7 (10 Laps): 1. #10 Donnie Beechler, Springfield, IL; 2. #99D Brad Kuhn, Avon, IN; 3. #4W Edwin Wilson, Tuttle, OK; 4. #20M Mario Marietta, Clinton, IN; 5. #10H Ryan Howard, New Carlisle, OH; 6. #1P Conner Pullen, Amarillo, TX; 7. #27K Ryan Kaplan, Chico, CA.

Heat 8 (10 Laps): 1. #3M Brandon Petty, Alexandria, IN; 2. #8 Jimmy Sills, Elverta, CA; 3. #57 Johnny Cofer, Macdoel, CA; 4. #27B Dale Howard, Byhalia, MS; 5. #20R Ron Capps, Carlsbad, CA; 6. #00X Pete Davis, Pleasanton, CA.

Heat 9 (10 Laps): 1. #85B Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN; 2. #19 Chris Wagner, Colorado Springs, CO; 3. #51H Mike Hess, Petersburg, IL; 4. #20K Ken Schrader, Concord, NC; 5. #9 Steven Cheek, Buffalo, TX; 6. #21M Michele Miller, Temple, PA; 7. #V6 Big Al Murie, Kansas City, MO.

Heat 10 (10 Laps): 1. #71 Tony Stewart, Rushville, IN; 2. #11 Tracy Hines, Greenfield, IN; 3. #62 Rick Ellis, Lakewood, CO; 4. #7M Todd McVay, Lee’s Summit, MO; 5. #2J Josh Ford, Ventura, CA; 6. #3A Bill Allen, Independence, MO; 7. #31J Jason Howe, Jacksonville, IL.

C Features - top 2 to Twin B features

First C Main (12 Laps): 1. #47X J.J. Yeley, Phoenix, AZ; 2. #8P Wally Pankratz, Orange, CA; 3. #1AZ David Rosales, Glendale, AZ; 4. #31H, Bart Hartman, Zanesville, OH; 5. #1P Conner Pullen, Amarillo, TX; 6. #14 Randy Hannagan, San Jose, CA; 7. #0J Todd Jackson, Independence, MO; 8. #56K Ken Dull, Machesney Park, IL; 9. #15M Chris Morway, Glastonbury, CT; 10. #21M Michele Miller, Temple, PA; 11. #20R Ron Capps, Carlsbad, CA; 12. #78C David Camfield, Sr., Maroa, IL. DNS - #V6 Big Al Murie, Kansas City, MO.

Second C Main (12 Laps): 1. #43B Buddy Luebke, Stoughton, WI; 2. #00X Pete Davis, Pleasanton, CA; 3. #81H Jerry Hammock, Ennis, TX; 4. #31J Jason Howe, Jacksonville, IL; 5. #10H Ryan Howard, New Carlisle, OH; 6. #77 Matt DeWitt, Houston, TX; 7. #55 Tony Everhart, El Cajon, CA; 8. #2J Josh Ford, Ventura, CA; 9. #5M Mike Neher, Monticello, IN; 10, #88M Matt Hardin, Galveston, IN; 11. #3A Bill Allen, Independence, MO; 12. #27K Ryan Kaplan, Chico, CA.

B Features - top 3 in each to A Feature

First B Main (15 Laps): 1. #8 Jimmy Sills, Elverta, CA; 2. #72 Jeff Flesher, Lexington, IL; 3. #4W Edwin Wilson, Tuttle, OK; 4. #57K Randy Koch, Oregon, WI; 5. #33H Robert Hanley, Foxfield, CO; 6. #51H Mike Hess, Petersburg, IL; 7. #8P Wally Pankratz, Orange, CA; 8. #99 Kyle Rayburn, Pueblo West, CO; 9. #27B Dale Howard, Byhalia, MS; 10. #5S J.C. Bland, Springfield, IL; 11. #7M Todd McVay, Lee’s Summit, MO; 12. #7 Critter Malone, Speedway, IN; 13. #9 Steve Cheek, Buffalo, TX; 14. #47X J.J. Yeley, Phoenix, AZ; 15. #17X Greg Nelson, Newcastle, CA; 16. #20m Mario Marietta, Clinton, IN.

Second B Main (15 Laps): 1. #81 Chad DeSelle, Sun Prairie, WI; 2. #45 Jeremy Sherman, Phoenix, AZ; 3. #3M Brandon Petty, Alexandria, IN; 4. #19 Chris Wagner, Colorado Springs, Co; 5. #27C Sparky Howard, Santa Rosa, CA; 6. #57 Johnny Cofer, Macdoel, CA; 7. #25F Mike Farmer, Colorado Springs, CO; 8. #43B Buddy Luebke, Stoughton, WI; 9. #20K Ken Schrader, Concord, N.C.; 10, 95F Justin Fisher, Phoenix, AZ; 11. #30J Johnny Rodriguez, Elk Grove, CA; 12. #00X Pete Davis, Pleasanton, CA; 13. #62 Rick Ellis, Lakewood, CO; 14. #10C Shain Mathews, Marysville, CA; 15. #85B Bryan Clauson, Noblesville, IN; 16. #51 Ryan Durst, Lincoln, NE.

A Feature - top 4 transfer to Saturday A feature; others to Saturday B & C features

A Main (25 Laps): 1. #29J Jason Leffler, Long Beach, CA; 2. #15X Scott Hatton, Roscoe, IL; 3. #11 Tracy Hines, Greenfield, IN; 4. #71 Tony Stewart, Rushville, IN; 5. #10 Donnie Beechler, Springfield, IL; 6. #95 Aaron Fike, Galesburg, IL; 7. #35W Gary Wright, Hooks, TX; 8. #7R Troy Rutherford, Ojai, CA; 9. #72 Jeff Flesher, Lexington, IL; 10. #81 Chad DeSelle, Sun Prairie, WI; 11. #8 Jimmy Sills, Elverta, CA; 12. #45 Jeremy Sherman, Phoenix, AZ; 13. #86C David Camfield, Jr., Decatur, IL; 14. #12AZ Erick Wilkins, El Mirage, AZ; 15. #3M Brandon Petty, Alexandria, IN; 16. #95X Rik Forbes, Omaha, NE; 17. #10W Bobby Boone, Bakersfield, CA; 18. #11Z Travis Berryhill, American Canyon, CA; 19. #4W Edwin Wilson, Tuttle, OK; 20. #43 Cameron Dodson, Greenfield, IN; 21. #99D Brad Kuhn, Avon, IN; 22. #3W Brandon Waelti, Sun Prairie, WI.

Submitted By: Admin Account

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