Travis Berryhill Comes Up Aces In Hard Rock Casino Qualifying Night
November 8th, 2016 by Wade Huisman
TULSA, Okla. (January 11, 2017) Adding to the list of first time winners at the Tulsa Expo Raceway, California’s Travis Berryhill solidified his spot in Saturday’s championship feature event with a win in Wednesday’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tulsa Qualifying Night at the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire.
The 42nd different preliminary night winner in Chili Bowl history, Berryhill was chased to the line by fellow Californians, Jake Swanson and Colby Copeland with all three punching their ticket into Saturday’s A-Main for the first time.
“Man it takes a lot of pressure off,” chuckled the driver of the Manic Racing No. 31 when asked about being locked in.
“I’ve been in a B-Main here but I’ve never been in a Saturday night A-Main, so I’m pretty proud of that. I’ve been to in the ‘B’ and been close, and down to the Q main event, or whatever they are down to these days, and everywhere in between. So when you are down there in those things it’s a struggle and it’s stressful because you never know what you are going to get; especially the further you get down. I’ve been all the way through them. Last year we had a pretty poor qualifying night. We were fast but we just couldn’t put it all together. Then Saturday night we really bared down and threw some stuff at it that worked and we went through three or four main events last year. I carried a little bit of that confidence over to this year as well.”
Taking off from fifth, Berryhill wasted no time advancing to the point in the Ray Seach wrenched No. 31. Battling with Missouri’s Andrew Felker on the third round, the Fontana powered No. 31 rolled to the top spot on Lap 4 with a move off the second turn with Oklahoma’s Kevin Bayer in tow.
Caution on Lap 6, the chase for the lead was berm to wall on the Tulsa Expo Raceway with Berryhill glued to the hub, while Bayer railed the cushion. Evenly matched at every end of the Raceway, the margin for the lead was by inches at times as Bayer built momentum for a pass on Lap 10.
Staying true of the bottom of the track, Berryhill took advantage of a bobble by the driver of the Boss Chassis No. 91k to retake the lead on Lap 13. Able to gain some breathing room over Bayer, the back of the field was quickly approaching. Finding the tail of the pack on Lap 15, the question of where to run became real a lap later. On the back bumper of lapped traffic, the caution flew to bring the field to a single file restart.
Attempting the restart, fourth running Andrew Felker lost power to force another caution, advancing Jake Swanson into fourth. Once the race resumed, Berryhill was able to slip away to a 1.824 second advantage at the line, while the race for second was on between Jake Swanson and Colby Copeland.
Advancing out of a B-Main to start 18th, Swanson would win out the battle for the runner-up spot. On having to race through the ‘B’ to get to the A-Feature, Swanson had to fight a sour engine under the bonnet of the No. 68W.
Putting him behind the eight ball, Jake commented on the situation by saying, “It was a little hectic to say the least. There’s no quit in our deal. Straight out the get go that thing was really good. They had that thing on a rail. We won the heat race, and I knew we had to win that to make it count. From there we went to the qualifier and figure we could get a good jump, but as soon as the thing fired off it wasn’t running right. I tried resetting the box and I tried leaning it down, whatever I could do. It just wasn’t happen then with one to go, the thing was running on all four again. It took off and I though we just got a Chili Bowl miracle, but as soon as the yellow came out that wasn’t the case and it dropped back to two (cylinders). After that, it just shut off.”
Barely holding onto third, Copeland edged out Washington’s Gary Taylor by only 0.068 seconds. With a sense of relief, Copeland talked about being locked into Saturday night.
“It feels pretty good to be in the Saturday feature. It’s good to hang out now and get the car ready to see what we can do on Friday with the pole shuffle, then get ready for 55 laps on Saturday. We’re actually staying at the Hard Rock Casino so it worked out good that we were qualifying tonight, so we can celebrate and get focused and be ready to go for Friday and Saturday.”
While just missing the transfer, Gary Taylor ran to the fourth spot from seventh with Tyler Thomas coming from ninth to complete the top-five.
Ryan Robinson crossed sixth with Sammy Swindell hard charging from 24th to seventh after advancing from the C-Features. In pursuit of Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year, Donnie Schatz moved from 15th to eighth. Casey Shuman from 16th earned the ninth spot with Brent Beauchamp crossing tenth.
Presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tulsa; Wednesday’s qualifying slate saw 88 drivers making the call to bring the event total to 178. The Fastenal Flip Count has reached 18 over the first two nights of the Chili Bowl with all drivers able to walk away. The 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire continues on Thursday, January 12, 2017 and is presented by John Christner Trucking.