5th Chili Bowl Turns Into Rollercoaster for Gage Walker
By Jessica Jenkins
Striding into Tulsa's River Spirit Expo Center for his fifth Chili Bowl appearance, Gage Walker had everything in place to claim a new best in the premier race. Missing out on Saturday's transfer to the A in 2017 by just four spots, the 20 year old knew he could put his red #7x in position to claim one of the coveted places in the field of 24.
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Thurday's preliminary night started off well for Walker with a second place start and finish in the 11th heat race. Sending him straight into the fourth qualifier, the Fairland, Indiana racer took the green in seventh and quickly snapped up positions, coming close to second at the end of ten laps for a gain of four spots. Using his accumulated passing points, the Brian Walker-owned team slotted into seventh for the 25 lap A main. His strong run kept him inching towards the top five and in contention to claim an excellent place to roll off from on Saturday. When a caution flew towards the final stages, Walker came to a stop and wound up out of the feature with a water pump issue.
Finishing 22nd on his qualifying night set the determined young racer in a D Main Saturday afternoon. Starting ninth and battling illness, nothing could hold him back as his lightning-quick car moved into a transfer spot just past halfway. He kept charging and jumped all the way to third by the time all 15 laps were accomplished. The stellar run to the front put him on MAVTV for the first C Main, but also at the back of the field. That fact did not seem to hinder Walker as he began his march up towards another transfer in the 'alphabet soup'. He raced hard while utilizing both the high line and a series of sliders to move past the cars ahead. That is, until a car flipping ahead in turn two came down right on top of him as he drove into the corner. Coming to a full stop on lap six he was put back to the tail where momentum stalled on the 1/4 mile when the surface slicked off. Attempts to gain back positions moved him into 17th, where he ultimately finished off the Chili Bowl Nationals.
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Hoping for more, but unable to recover all of the positions back from his mid-week issue, Walker still took home his second best Chili Bowl finish. None of it would have been possible without Spike Chassis, Impact, Wilwood Brakes, IPC, Walker and Sons, Business Art DeSigns, Superior Bearing & Supply, Indy Metal Finishing Inc and everyone that supports him. He will be back next year to chase the Golden Driller trophy at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds, but in the meantime you can find him on track with USAC's National Midget series, as well as other select events. Visit his website GageWalkerRacing.com to learn more about him, "like" his Facebook fan page @GageWalkerRacing for pictures from Tulsa and race updates throughout the season or interact with him on Twitter @GageWalker7.
Heat 11: start 2nd ; finish 2nd
Qualifier 4: start 7th ; finish 3rd
A Feature: start 7th ; finish 22nd
D Feature 1: start 9th ; finish 3rd
C Feature 1: start 17th ; finish 17th