Kofoid bests Larson on Tuesday’s qualifying night for the Chili Bowl

Buddy Kofoid outdueled Kyle Larson for a dramatic A-Feature win in Tuesday night’s qualifying bout for the Chili Bowl Nationals.

Piloting the No. 67 Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota, Kofoid hounded Larson, who started on pole, consistently throughout the opening 24 of 30 laps. With the aid of a restart, Kofoid finally surged to the lead and came under an immediate barrage of attacks by the defending two-time Chili Bowl champion. However, Kofoid held his nerve as Larson eventually punched the cushion and fell back into the clutches of third-place Chris Windom.

In the end, Kofoid managed to finish 1.738s ahead of Larson.

“I was trying to stay close to him in traffic. All the lappers were running their own race side by side, so you kind of had to pick through and be able to be there,” said Kofoid, 20. “The opportunity never really came in traffic like I thought, and the top side started getting really treacherous in three and four.”

The result breaks a four-year streak of prelim night wins for Larson. By virtue of their 1-2 finishes on Tuesday, both Kofoid and Larson are locked into the main event for Saturday.

“I mean, I’d like to be one spot better but you’re still locked in,” said Larson, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion. “It’s a big difference from second to third stress-wise when it comes to Saturday. So just made a wrong decision there on the restart. It was just getting, I was taken off low off (Turn) 4, so my entry speed was not normal, up to speed into (Turn) 1 on the restart. I thought if I could just protect for lap, I could get back to doing what I was doing, but just missed the bottom a little bit. My car was too free on the bottom and just spun (the tires) and he cleared me by a lot and was able to get down. Then I put together some good laps. Then made two pretty big mistakes in a row. And then I had to get battling Chris (Windom). So, just wish I could play it back a little differently. But, I think Buddy was probably a touch better than I was just judging off… even when I felt like I’d put together good laps, he was kind of right there with me. We’ll work on it a little bit and be better for Saturday. Bummed that I didn’t win, but happy we’re still in contention for Saturday.”

Windom finished third, followed by Jake Swanson and Thomas Meseraull to complete the top five.

After winning her heat race, Kaylee Bryson backed it up with a runner-up in the qualifier before capturing a sixth-place finish in Tuesday night’s feature, thus qualifying for a B-Main for Saturday. The 19-year-old Oklahoma native’s result is the best-ever preliminary finish by a woman, beating the previous best mark of 10th set by Harli White in 2016. If Bryson can finish among the top seven in her respective B-Main, she would then become the first-ever woman to make a Saturday A-Main.

A-Feature: Top 2 advance to Saturday’s A-Feature. [starting position]

(30 Laps): 1. 67-Buddy Kofoid [2]; 2. 01-Kyle Larson [1]; 3. 89-Chris Windom [4]; 4. 55A-Jake Swanson [11]; 5. 7X-Thomas Meseraull [13]; 6. 71K-Kaylee Bryson [3]; 7. 27B-Jake Bubak [6]; 8. 8J-Jonathan Beason [10]; 9. 7U-Kyle Jones [5]; 10. 9T-Tim McCreadie [23]; 11. 45X-Roger Crockett [19]; 12. 73H-Hunter Schuerenberg [18]; 13. 19K-Riley Kreisel [7]; 14. 19B-Alex Bright [8]; 15. 15-Donny Schatz [20]; 16. 47-Zach Daum [14]; 17. 27-Briggs Danner [21]; 18. 29S-Hank Davis [17]; 19. 40-Colton Hardy [24]; 20. 7T-TJ Smith [12]; 21. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr [22]; 22. 3N-Jake Neuman [15]; 23. 96-Cody Brewer [16]; 24. (DNF) 57W-Kaidon Brown [9]

Lap Leader(s): Kyle Larson 1-24; Michael “Buddy” Kofoid 25-30
Hard Charger: Tim McCreadie +13