TULSA, Okla. — Less than a week after a controversial and heartbreaking runner-up finish during the Tulsa Shootout in a winged outlaw micro sprint, Oklahoma’s Jonathan Beason is seeking redemption.
Beason, a veteran of open-wheel dirt racing, hopes to make up for the Golden Driller trophy he missed in Tulsa Shootout competition with a Golden Driller from the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Jan. 11-16 inside the River Spirit Expo Center at the quarter-mile Tulsa Expo Raceway.
The 31-year-old native of Broken Arrow, Okla., took the lead on a late restart during the 55-lap Winged Outlaw feature, but was penalized for advancing his position before the restart cone and was docked two positions when a caution flag for debris on the race track waved with four laps left.
Beason raced back to second, but was unable to run down Californian Mitchel Moles, who won the race.
It left a bitter taste in Beason’s mouth, but he’s hoping to put those bad memories behind him next week with a victory in midget racing’s most prestigious event.
“I know for sure that I’m going to be thinking about all the possible rules and that I’m going to know them well in advance, that’s for sure,” said Beason, a six-time feature starter at the Chili Bowl. “I feel like as much attention as that’s brought on in the last few days, that people will probably hope that I do some good things out there. That, in itself, is as much pressure as I would put on myself normally.
“I wouldn’t say I have extra motivation, but I think we’d like to prove a bit of a point if we can.”
As one of the annual hometown favorites, Beason always has plenty of fan support when he visits the River Spirit Expo Center with his No. 8j Kantor Motorsports/Hard 8 Racing-prepared Spike-Toyota.
That doesn’t add pressure, according to Beason, but he admitted racing at the Chili Bowl as a native Oklahoman does make the weeklong event emotional for him.
“I don’t think those emotions really came until I made it to the main event my first time (in 2011), and then that first year I did exceptionally well and finished fourth. After that, it was like, ‘Well hell, now I’ve got to go out and do it again,’” Beason recalled. “And now I’ve kind of became somewhat of a hometown favorite and you start to get to the point where you’re expected to do well. But it’s still very special and I’ve had some really good moments, whether it’s winning a prelim night or even finishing second to Larson like I did last year to lock in.
“Those are some crazy feelings that you only will get one time a year.”
While Beason is traditionally viewed as one of the Chili Bowl frontrunners, partially due to the fact that he regularly runs the Tulsa Shootout as a tune-up for the Super Bowl of Midget Racing, he said success in one of the two events doesn’t necessarily translate over to the other.
“The cars really don’t drive anything alike,” said Beason when comparing the midgets to the micro sprints raced at the Tulsa Shootout. “In the midget, you feel a lot more movement, with the rolling of the chassis and things like that, whereas in the micro and the way they’ve evolved, they’re all glued to the track. The midgets almost overpower the track at the Chili Bowl. But I think what I get from it is that I get my racing skills just as sharp as somebody can have them right before the event.
“It comes down to just learning different scenarios and how they might play out,” Beason added. “I know the speeds are different, our closing speeds are different, but our lap times are fairly similar. Being able to make those split-second decisions is so important and the Shootout prepares you for that pretty well. I think that’s where it helps more than anything to race the micro the week before.”
In regard to the Chili Bowl itself, Beason finished fourth in his first Saturday feature start and has added finishes of eighth and sixth in two of his last four appearances in the 55-lap headliner.
In his eyes, there’s only one place left that he feels he needs to be when the checkered flag waves at the end of next week.
“We want to win the thing,” he said. “I believe that we have a team capable of doing that.”