TULSA, Okla. – Most drivers would be ecstatic to lock into the Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Entry Drink grand finale via their preliminary night finish. However, most drivers aren’t Tanner Thorson.
Thorson, the 2022 Chili Bowl winner who is seeking his second Golden Driller trophy in three years, wanted more than just a top-two effort and a secured place in Saturday’s 55-lap headliner.
The Minden, Nev., veteran wanted an outright victory in his prelim night feature. Instead, he was left to settle for second behind a dominant Spencer Bayston, who led all 30 laps en route to Thursday’s win.
It was a runner-up result that had Thorson “pissed off, to put it bluntly,” after climbing from his car.
That’s because the 27-year-old is as intense as they come, never satisfied unless he’s holding a trophy. Even when he does win, like he did inside the SageNet Center two years ago, he’ll find things to nitpick.
“I’m pissed off again running second,” Thorson said following Thursday’s feature. “It’s part of it. We learned a lot tonight. We’ll go back and watch some videos, and I’ll talk to my guys and see what they saw, and then we’ll regroup and try again.
“Remember, I was pissed off the year I won [after] running second on my prelim night and I’m kind of pissed off now.”
However, Thorson doesn’t view his frustration as a negative, but as a motivator whenever he’s on track.
“It’s good to be this way because I know how much better we could be,” Thorson tipped.
As far as what he struggled with Thursday that prevented him from keeping up with Bayston’s pace, Thorson noted several small things over the 24-lap run that kicked off the feature which hampered him.
“We were just a little balled up on the cushion,” Thorson explained. “[We] especially [struggled with] longevity throughout that race. I was tight, but it was manageable, and I could kind of keep my momentum up better under green. But once we got that yellow flag, I think my tire went down pretty far [on air pressure] and then I lost … I think my guys said about an inch and and three quarters of stagger.
“We’ll go back to see what we can do to keep that up better, and then we’ll go from there,” Thorson continued. “Like I said, I’m not happy about it by any means. We come to win every race, but obviously, that’s not necessarily possible. I’ve got a great group of people around me though that believe in me and give me the equipment that it takes to make that kind of performance happen, so we’ll keep working.
“Now it’s time to regroup, see what we can adjust on, and get ready for Saturday night.”
While his focus was already turned ahead following his Thursday night finish, Thorson said it wouldn’t have taken too many adjustments to get him in contention for the win in the closing laps.
“I needed a little bit more side bite, while still having rotation [through the center of the corners],” Thorson explained. “I’ve got some things I’m going to play with before Saturday. I’ve been trying some stuff [this week], and it’s been working out. In the Race of Champions [Monday] we were fast, and I went with a little more of that tonight, but it might have been a little bit too much that direction.
“I’m happy with [locking in], but I’m also frustrated.”
Saturday will mark Thorson’s 10th consecutive appearance in the Chili Bowl championship feature, by far the longest active streak of main event appearances inside the SageNet Center.
With a guaranteed starting spot inside the top-10 for the $20,000-to-win main event, does Thorson believe that a driver can win from anywhere in the first five rows?
“You definitely can,” said Thorson. “I think our car is good enough to do that. For the last four years, we’ve had that kind of speed here. I’m happy to be up in there and be locked in because that’s the next step toward being able to win this thing. In 2022 when I won, I was up in the first five rows, where every other year I’d been coming from the pole of a C [Feature] or the back of a D [Feature] on Saturday.
“The last two years, now, I’ve made the pole shuffle to where my stuff won’t be worn out by the time I get to the front [of the A-Feature]. … It’s important to be up as far as you can, and now we’ll go for it.”
Thorson will have a shot to put a second car into the Saturday feature as an owner, with Ace McCarthy taking the wheel of one of Thorson’s Stanton-powered entries for Hard Rock Casino Qualifying Night on Friday.
Every lap of the 38th Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Energy Drink can be streamed live through FloRacing.
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