TULSA, Okla. – After putting himself in the conversation last year at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Cannon McIntosh earned the biggest victory of his young career Monday night at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
In his debut for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, McIntosh earned high-point honors, lost the lead early, caught a break to get it back and then fended off a charging Tyler Courtney to win the 30-lap preliminary feature on Cummins Qualifying Night for the 34th edition of the crown jewel midget race.
The victory completed a clean sweep for McIntosh, who won his heat race and his qualifying race before leading all but six revolutions during the main event en route to victory lane.
McIntosh shot off like a bullet train from the pole position on the initial start, but it was less than five laps before the outside groove came in and allowed third-starting Aaron Reutzel to storm to the front.
Reutzel pulled away slightly, but McIntosh stayed close at hand, which was a good thing when Dustin Golobic made contact with Ryan Leavitt in turn two and flipped across the track – collecting Reutzel from the race lead as McIntosh snuck through on the bottom to resume command over the field.
From there, through five restarts – including an open red-flag period with eight to go after Trey Marcham flipped into the turn-two catchfence – McIntosh fended off every advance that Courtney and Michael Pickens threw at him from behind, pulling away to a .708-second victory in the end.
McIntosh’s most impressive moment was on the final restart with eight laps left, following the Marcham red, when he threaded the needle as Courtney and Pickens tried to take him three-wide off turn two.
The 17-year-old product of Bixby, Okla., never looked back after that, looking like a veteran despite taking an emotional win for the home crowd in just his second-career Chili Bowl appearance.
“I did not want to see that red, you know? Especially when they opened it up,” McIntosh admitted afterward. “I knew some of the drivers and crews were going to make some changes, and Tyler made a heck of a run there at the end. I was afraid he was going to get us, but I just stayed in it and prayed for the best. I knew that was my chance and I knew I couldn’t lift if we wanted to win this thing.
“I couldn’t have done this without this whole crew. Keith (Kunz), Pete (Willoughby), Al (Scroggins, crew chief), my dad and the whole Dave Mac Motorsports crew also … because I wouldn’t be here without all of them too, right? I have to thank God, just everyone that’s helped me. My dad, my mom, my main supporters … this is unbelievable. I’m really at a loss for words right now, honestly.
“I knew we could do it and this team could do it, but man; we really did it and it feels good right now.”
Monday night marked McIntosh’s second national midget victory and first since the Shamrock Classic last March, when he stunned the dirt-racing world by holding off Logan Seavey.
It had been a 10-month drought since then, but one that McIntosh was more than glad to snap.
“I’ve been looking for (another) win for a long time now,” he admitted. “We’ve had speed and been close so many times, but coming into this situation with Keith’s stuff, I put a lot of pressure on myself … and they did well actually keeping the pressure off me and keeping me relaxed. Coming in here, I just wanted to make the main event, but I never thought we’d be in victory lane tonight.
“It turned out well. When Keith hugged me … man that was special. This is all special.”
Courtney’s runner-up finish was enough to lock him into his fourth-straight Saturday A-main at the Chili Bowl, while Reutzel “drove in rage mode” to come from the back to third over the final 20 laps.
Pickens faded to fourth in the final laps, while Zach Daum completed the top five.
Paul Nienhiser crossed sixth, ahead of Kevin Thomas Jr., Wesley Smith, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Bayer.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.
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