Monday Night McIntosh on Chili Bowl Opening Night
Even if he doesn’t yet embrace the title, go ahead and call Cannon McIntosh Mr. Monday Night at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
For the second year in a row, McIntosh won the opening night preliminary and set the tone for what could be another breakout January for the 18-year-old from nearby Bixby, Oklahoma.
McIntosh is one of the top prospects under the Toyota Racing Development umbrella and has done nothing but validate the distinction over the past 12 months since joining Keith Kunz Motorsports — the most prominent team in the discipline.
He became the youngest preliminary winner in Chili Bowl history last year and is became the second youngest preliminary winner a year later. In between preliminary triumphs in Tulsa, McIntosh won twice in USAC National Midget competition and thrice in the second tier POWRi division in 2020.
He finished third behind Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in the feature last January, too.
But winning specifically on Monday has added relevance.
During the Chili Bowl, each of the 300-plus entrants participate in one of five preliminary nights throughout the week to determine where they start during the alphabet soup on Saturday — the day long process that eliminates drivers until there are just 24 in the main event.
For the most part, drivers get to decide which of the five days they race, and they routinely pick the same night every year as a matter of consistency.
Kyle Larson has dominated Tuesdays, winning six times out of the past nine seasons. Wednesday has become the Rico Abreu show with wins in five out of the past six years. Thursday is all about Christopher Bell with wins in six of the past seven years.
Only Friday is unspoken for, especially now that McIntosh has taken two Mondays in a row, winning every time he’s entered what is now opening day.
Crown him Mr. Monday Night.
“I don’t know if I can say that yet, but I certainly somewhat made a name for myself in this building on Monday the past two years,” McIntosh said. “I’m just thankful to be in one of the best race cars here and to have this kind of opportunity.”
McIntosh will likely enter the Chili Bowl for decades to come and you can expect him to race on Mondays as long as he does, too.
Beyond the Monday storyline, the win also validates the expectation that McIntosh should be on the short list of potential threats to dethrone Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell on Saturday. He finished 10th in the B-Main driving for his dad (Dave McIntosh of Dave Mac Motorsports) during his debut effort in 2019 before earning a podium in 2020 for KKM.
With the victory, McIntosh is guaranteed a top-10 starting spot and five days to think about what comes next.
“Anytime you’re out front you need to move around on your restarts because I learned last year that you need to move around,” McIntosh said. “Once I did that, we were able to pull away and we really started to hook the bottom in 3 and 4 at the end.
“If we can bring consistency into Saturday, we’ll be in a really good spot.”
SUNSHINE BREAKS THROUGH
Both the winner and the second-place finisher of each preliminary race automatically qualifies for the Saturday night main event, meaning that Tyler Courtney will make the race for the fifth time in a row after missing the cut in his first five attempts.
That distinction is something the 2019 USAC National Midget champion is cognizant and appreciative to have overcome.
He threw one slider on McIntosh but otherwise drove a conservative race because he didn’t want to throw away the transfer.
“I think the longest run was about 10 laps, and I think if we’d had a longer run I might have had something for him,” Courtney said. “At the end I just got to playing too much defense. I didn’t want to give up the bottom and risk missing the transfer, but it’s just awesome to be back here at the Chili Bowl.
“A lot of things tried to make it not happen, but we’re making it happen, everyone is wearing masks and being safe and it’s a great feeling.”
Like McIntosh, Courtney is entered into the pole dash, a series of four mini-races featuring four cars each, comprised of the winners and second-place finishers from each night’s preliminary.
UNDERDOGS AND RESPONDING TO ADVERSITY
Monday featured a lot of feel good stories from drivers you wouldn’t have expected to be in the mix on Monday night or annual contenders who needed to overcome much simply to make it to the feature on opening night.
The biggest Cinderella story for 16-year-old Jacob Denney who just celebrated the birthday that made him eligible for the Chili Bowl on Sunday. He garnered immediate attention in outdueling USAC National Series champion Chris Windom in his heat and finishing sixth in the main.
Meanwhile, Tim McCreadie captured a 14th consecutive top-10 in his preliminary but had to advance all the way from the C-Main after a dreadful heat race.
Even though he didn’t finish the feature, Jerry Coons Jr. also had to overcome a crash in his heat and advanced into the A from the C.
MORE OF THE SAME FOR BRISCOE
It was like déjà vu all over again for impending NASCAR Cup Series rookie Chase Briscoe.
For the second year in a row, Briscoe showed competitive speed in his heat and qualifier but ran into trouble during the feature that could make advancing into Saturday’s main event a complicated endeavor.
Briscoe started third but quickly fell out of the top-five before Lap 10.
He kind of hovered just outside of the top-5 throughout the race and finished in seventh. Over the weeknend, Briscoe said it was important that he didn’t shoot himself in the foot on his qualifying night.
“I won’t even say it was shooting ourselves in the foot,” Briscoe said after the race. “Looking back on it, we were just so good in the qualifier and got held up by those guys a little bit and just tried a little bit more in the feature, just like last year, and we weren’t out of the ballpark, but when you race against the guys who’ve done it all year, you just have to nail it.
“I’m frustrated to say the least, but it’s three years in a row that this happened.”
Briscoe still feels like he has a car that can contend with the best on Saturday if he can just get the job done in the B-Main.
“I guess it’s frustrating,” Briscoe said. “Anytime you’re good like that and then you get to the feature and miss it, it’s frustrating. It’s really the third year in a row this has happened.
“I know we’re capable of doing it so we just have to go out there and do it on Saturday.”
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 71K-Cannon McIntosh; 2. 7C-Tyler Courtney; 3. 52-Blake Hahn; 4. 89-Chris Windom; 5. 1D-David Gravel; 6. 35-Jacob Denny; 7. 5-Chase Briscoe; 8. 9-Tim McCreadie; 9. 32T-Trey Marcham; 10. 21T-Carson Macedo; 11. 8-Alex Sewell; 12. 32-Gary Taylor; 13. 11S-Stephen Schnapf; 14. 28K-Kory Schudy; 15. 45X-Roger Crockett; 16. 55V-CJ Leary; 17. 0G-Steven Russell; 18. 8M-Kade Morton; 19. 56A-Riley Kreisel; 20. (DNF) 07W-Mitchel Moles; 21. (DNF) 14S-Clinton Boyles; 22. (DNF) 85-Jerry Coons Jr; 23. (DNF) 87W-Ryan Bernal; 24. (DNF) 91K-Kevin Bayer
Lap Leader(s): Ryan Bernal 1-3, Cannon McIntosh 4-30
Flip Count: 7