BELL LEADS “BELLEVILLE MIDGET NATIONALS” SWEEP FOR KUNZ
Belleville, Kansas.…..The 36th running of the “Belleville Midget Nationals” on Saturday night at the Belleville High Banks came down to a battle among teammates as race rookie Chris Bell topped Rico Abreu in what became a sweep for the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD team as rookie Tanner Thorson charged from 13th to finish third.
After winning the Pole Dash, Bell jumped to the early lead with Abreu in hot pursuit as Dave Darland and Tracy Hines held their pace in the early laps. After a red flag on lap 2 for Patrick Stasa and a yellow on lap eleven for Danny Stratton, who suffered a flat right-rear tire, the race went green the rest of the way.
The lead duo edged away from all pursuers as the race hit the halfway point, and Abreu closed in rapidly at that point. On lap 24, he darted by his teammate with the lead as they negotiated traffic.
Bell was not done, though. He stayed with his teammate as they moved in and out of traffic, working a narrow lane as rubber had started to lay down. With just six to go, Bell saw an opening as Abreu struggled clearing a car and took his chance, grabbing the lead.
Abreu shadowed Bell over the closing laps, pulling all the way up to him with two to go and trying a couple times to slide by with the lead, but Bell hung on to take the win in the #71 by .691 seconds.
“Belleville is just crazy. It’s unbelievable. I know how much this race means for Keith – he’s literally been talking about it since the day he hired me. To be able to come here and win it for him,and for us to run top-three, it’s pretty unbelievable,” Bell said of his biggest win to date.
“I really thought the race was over when Rico went by me. It flashed right before my eyes. All week long that was my fear – to jump out to the lead and never find the rubber. When Rico drove by me, I moved back down and was able to follow him as he was trying to work traffic. I was just trying to sneak by him, drive by him the way he drove by me and and not let him get another shot at me. I was really lighting up the tires early, and I was really hoping they would last and had to start pedaling quite a bit to try to keep them under me,” Bell said of the grueling forty-lapper.
Abreu held on for second in the #67K, as the leaders stretched out nearly four seconds on the rest of the field.
“I’m happy for Keith and my team and my teammates. I figured I’d let him go early, and I was just cruising for a while. He never got too far away, and then I started catching him. I got up on the wheel – it was on the fence into one and I hit it a couple times. I just got better and better, adjusting the shocks and getting through traffic after I got by Christopher. Then I just was following a lapped car in the rubber, and before I know it Chris gave me a big slider. I turned down and got back to him, but it was too late to do much. I knew he wouldn’t let down even after I got him, and I just got beat there in a race with my teammate. I had a helluva car tonight. In Keith and Pete (Willoughby)’s favorite race of the year, this is pretty cool,” Abreu said.
Thorson, who drove the #67 for Kunz/Curb-Agajanian – Toyota TRD, found the rubber early in the race and made a big run through the middle of the race, finally breaking into the top-five nearing ten to go and grabbing the third spot in the closing laps. The podium finish is Thorson’s best showing in his rookie campaign in USAC.
“Walking through those gates up there, it was a crazy feeling. I never thought I’d even be here, so it’s a dream come true just to be here, let alone join my teammates on the podium. My goal was just to get my laps in and learn about the race. It was hard to stay calm, especially coming up on a guy like Tracy Hines for third. You want the spot but you don’t want to step on it. I was just focused on hitting my spots. It’s a great feeling to do what we did tonight,” Thorson said.
Tracy Hines capped a strong weekend in the Parker Machinery – Turbines, Inc. #24 Spike/Toyota, while Bryan Clauson rounded out the top-five in the Curb Records – Mobil-1 #39 Spike/Esslinger, which garnered a $500 bonus as the top finishing Esslinger-powered entry. Zach Daum took home the ProSource “Hard Charger Award” in his back-up car after coming from the tail to finish sixth.
HONDA USAC NATIONAL DIRT MIDGET RACE RESULTS: August 3, 2013 – Belleville, Kansas – Belleville High Banks – 36th “Belleville Midget Nationals”
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Chris Bell (71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Rico Abreu (67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. Dalton Armstrong (7A, C&A), 4. Darren Hagen (3, RFMS), 5. Tanner Thorson (67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 6. Chett Gehrke (11c, Matteson), 7. Garett Hood (11H, Two Hoods), 8. Jeff Stasa (91, SBR).
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Tracy Hines (24, Parker), 2. Shane Golobic (11, Wilke), 3. Bryan Clauson (39, Tucker/BCI/Curb-Agajanian), 4. C.J. Johnson (45x, Martin), 5. Patrick Stasa (19, SBR), 6. Ronnie Gardner (62, Bock), 7. Bobby East (4, Klatt), 8. Johnny Murdock (0, Zero).
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Dave Darland (17, RW/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Andrew Felker (11A, Felker), 3. Jerry Coons, Jr. (63, Dooling), 4. Danny Stratton (7c, C&A), 5. Zach Daum (5D, Daum), 6. Cody Brewer (96, Central), 7. Randy Boyer (69, Boyer), 8. Evan Pardo (2P, Zero).
POLE DASH: (6 laps) 1. Bell, 2. Abreu, 3. Darland, 4. Hines, 5. Felker, 6. Golobic.
B DASH: (6 laps) 1. Clauson, 2. Hagen, 3. Coons, 4. Stratton, 5. Johnson, 6. Armstrong.
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Chris Bell, 2. Rico Abreu, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Tracy Hines, 5. Bryan Clauson, 6. Zach Daum, 7. Dave Darland, 8. Bobby East, 9. Darren Hagen, 10. Cody Brewer, 11. Andrew Felker, 12. Danny Stratton, 13. Shane Golobic, 14. Dalton Armstrong, 15. C.J. Johnson, 16. Ronnie Gardner, 17. Johnny Murdock, 18. Chett Gehrke, 19. Evan Pardo, 20. Garett Hood, 21. Jerry Coons, Jr., 22. Randy Boyer, 23. Patrick Stasa, 24. Jeff Stasa. NT
**P. Stasa flipped on Lap 2 of the Feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-23 Bell, Laps 24-34 Abreu, Laps 35-40 Bell.
NEW HONDA NATIONAL DIRT MIDGET POINTS: 1-Bell-626; 2-Clauson-564; 3-Hines-527; 4-Coons-506; 5-Hagen-482; 6-Felker-480; 7-Abreu-439; 8-Daum-438; 9-Kuhn-374; 10-Thorson-370.
NEXT HONDA NATIONAL DIRT MIDGET RACE: August 3 – Belleville, Kansas – Belleville High Banks – “Belleville Midget Nationals”