The 35th running of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals marked Kaeden Cornell's long-awaited debut at the crown jewel of Midget competition.
Partnering with perennial Chili Bowl contenders Daum Motorsports, the 20 year old's quest for the coveted Golden Driller was mired with problems early. Monday's open practice was slated to be Cornell's first taste of on-track action. However, the 50K team was swiftly met with adversity during hot laps. A faulty battery kept Cornell from getting the chance to test his equipment during his initially scheduled time.
After a battery swap, the 50K fired up -- but the team didn't escape lady luck entirely. A brake issue left Cornell to make his first-ever laps in a Midget shorthanded, choosing to pull-off early to attempt to fix the car for his Wednesday preliminary night contest.
Despite the team's best efforts, the problem persisted throughout the week, forcing Cornell to take the green for Wednesday's heat race before the issue was fully rectified. Despite the complications, Cornell gained valuable experience in a new discipline of racing while tallying crucial laps under his belt.
Starting in 9th position for Wednesday's C-Main, the 50K gutted out a strong run against stiff competition, including the likes of NASCAR veteran and Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman. The Willard, MO native, climbed his way up through the order, scoring some impressive passes along the way to a 7th place finish, setting him up for Saturday's L Main.
"It's disappointing we ran into these issues, but I'm thankful we were able to get out there and get some laps in. Not having brakes held us back a bit, but following our C Main race, I felt more confident behind the wheel and looked forward to what we could do when the car was at 100 percent," said Cornell.
With the brake issues seemingly behind the Daum Motorsports 50K, the team hit Tulsa Expo Raceway for Saturday's L Main with a renewed sense of confidence. Continuing to improve on every on-track opportunity, Cornell looked to secure a 3rd or better to advance to the K-Main.
Following four problem-free hot laps, Cornell lined up for the feature on the outside of row number three. As the green flag dropped, the 50K erupted with a blistering start, immediately skyrocketing to 3rd place, and squarely in contention in for the lead.
Ultimately, bad luck struck the team again on lap three, as Cornell's car began to lose power exiting turn two, and by turn four had sputtered to a complete stop. Diagnosed as an electric issue, the team recorded a 14th place finish in the 2021 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl L Main event and ended its hopes of securing a Golden Driller.
"This weekend obviously didn't go as I had hoped, but I definitely learned a ton about not only Midget racing but racing in a marquee event like this one," Cornell said.
"I really want to thank my supporters, sponsors and especially the Daum Motorsports crew; they treated me like family all week. Hopefully, the Chili Bowl and I will meet again very soon."
Following Cornell's Chili Bowl appearance, he will return to Late Model action for the start of his season at Old. No 1 Speedway in Harrisburg, AK on March 19, 2021.
Wednesday: Circle City Raceway Qualifying Night
Heat Race: 8th
C Main 1: 7th
Saturday: Lucas Oil Championship Feature Events
L Main: 14th