Sophomore Attempt Earns Better Chili Bowl Result for Lynch
By Jessica Jenkins
Walking into Tulsa's River City Expo Center, Brayton Lynch carried in the optimism that we all do at the start of Chili Bowl week. With a year's worth of experience on the 1/4 mile indoor track from his 2017 debut and a season of racing midgets at some new-to-him tracks, the Rusty Kunz Racing driver was prepared for a strong second showing in the season's premier race.
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Once Lynch's Thursday preliminary night finally arrived, he rolled on track for the last of eleven heat races with a starting spot of sixth. He was up to fourth by turn one and raced hard to hold onto it. As the 8 lap heat moved to a close, the fourth spot was taken from him for a net gain of one position to count toward his passing points. After all heat results were tallied, he'd missed the top forty in points, sending him into the second C Main with an outside front row starting position. Stuck in a C Main with racers that have far more experience at the famed event, the 18 year old fought to find their pace on a track where he still doesn't have a bunch of laps. Disappointed with fifth place and his evening finishing before the Qualifiers, he refocused for Saturday's long day of racing.
Having escaped a few of the problems that plagued him a year earlier, Lynch was a full two letters in the alphabet soup higher than his first appearance while starting on the pole of the second I Main. He fired off strong and began pulling away to a fairly large gap over the rest of the field. A yellow halfway through the race forced him to slow his pace and put his closest competitor back on his bumper. This time second place stayed closer, but the Central Illinois racer kept the lead for a couple laps before a close call sent him into a battle for second and third while he stayed glued to running the high line. That's when his 2017 luck returned to bite him as another driver dove to his inside and made contact, parking them both in turn 3 with the other driver's nose up on Lynch's left front. With two laps remaining and now starting at the tail, there wasn't much time for Lynch to work the magic he had in the first half. But he did sail past one car by the time they reached the backstretch and drove his car off turn four to take the checkered flag just barely ahead of the driver who had held eighth. Four spots out of the transfer ended his Chili Bowl early in the afternoon but still set a new high finish for the 2017 high school graduate.
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With the support of Snap Fitness owner and Country Financial representative Adam Lopez, Dooling Hayward Motorsports along with Richard Childress Racing, Stanton Engines, Rusty Kunz Racing, Hoosier, Spike Chassis, Walker Filters, All Star Performance, Quick Change, CSI Shocks, Sweet Manufacturing and a cool new helmet from Light Up the World Beverages, Lynch has already set his sights on how to apply the lessons he can carry out of the Tulsa State Fairgrounds into not just next year's Chili Bowl, but also his upcoming races this season. "It will probably help me a little bit at certain places that you've just got to watch yourself. I think here the car gets a little tight, but you can't get it too tight because it builds such a heavy curb. You don't want to get too over on the right side and mess your stuff all up, so it helps you learn with the slick and the curb as a learning tool. The track here is tricky. It's on the edge all the time; you just have to be perfect to run it really good and it's hard to learn. So getting better at that will be helpful. I didn't have the best week really, to be honest, but there is always more learning on weeks like this, so you just try to get as much learning in as you can." Leaning on information gleaned from experienced teammates Tanner Thorson, Thomas Meseraull and Brad Sweet will also help smooth that learning curve.
The personable young driver with a rich family history of racing will have a small break before heading to the Southern Illinois Center located at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in March. Following USAC's season opener he will focus on running the majority of USAC's 2018 schedule along with POWRi National midget events as they fit in throughout the season. Keep up with him via the Brayton Lynch Racing Facebook fan page and follow him on Twitter @BraytonLynch and @BLR1k.