Christopher Bell dominates qualifying, will get chance to defend Chili Bowl Midget Nationals title

TULSA, Okla. -- Christopher Bell will get the chance to defend his 2016 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals title Saturday as he dominated his qualifying night Thursday at the Tulsa Expo Center.

Bell, whose 2017 highlights included winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title, earned one of the three spots in the 24-driver main event Saturday night on the quarter-mile dirt oval as he led flag-to-flag in his 25-lap feature Thursday.

The top-three finishers in each of the four qualifying nights (the 357 drivers entered compete in one qualifying night) advance to the 55-lap championship race, with the remaining 12 spots filled by heat races throughout the day Saturday.

Bell has won 11 times in his last 14 midget feature events.

"A race car driver is only as good as the race car he sits in," Bell said. "That's what it boils down to. I have great race cars, and I have been able to make the most of it."

Bell, two-time Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu and NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson -- all driving for team owner Keith Kunz -- have won their qualifying nights this week.

Shane Golobic and Chase Johnson finished second and third Thursday, joining other main-event qualifiers Brad Sweet, Tyler Courtney, Tyler Thomas and Kevin Thomas Jr.