TULSA, Okla. — Kaylee Bryson made history when she registered a sixth-place finish during Warren CAT Qualifying Night at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals on Tuesday night.
The sixth-place effort is the best finish in Chili Bowl history by a female driver during a preliminary night feature. It’s just the latest accomplishment for Bryson, who has begun to turn heads as she continues to gain experience racing midgets.
“I think it was a matter of me getting more experience,” Bryson said Thursday night inside the Tulsa Expo Center. “I think it took me a little bit to get used to it because it’s a different style of racing that I’ve never been in. I think it’s finally clicked for me.”
While she hasn’t registered her first victory in a midget yet, her improvement has been obvious. She sat on the pole for the Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway in November, where she led laps and finished fifth.
She backed up that performance on Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla., when she won her heat race and finished second in her qualifier to earn a third-place starting position for the preliminary feature. She finished sixth.
“Coming off a good run, you, obviously, want to do better the next time you get in the car,” Bryson said. “I’ve just been so happy with my team and everybody at James Hodge Toyota, everybody that works here with Keith (Kunz) that gets our cars dialed in. I’ve just been so happy and we’ve running good all week. I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Bryson has another chance to make history on Saturday. Her finish Tuesday means she should near the front of one of the two B mains, ahead of the 55-lap Chili Bowl finale. All Bryson needs to do is finish seventh or better and she’ll lock herself into the main event.
If she can do that, she’ll become the first female competitor to race in the Chili Bowl main event. However, she doesn’t want to be known for simply being the first female to accomplish something in racing. She wants to be known for being a great race car driver.
“At the end of the day, I just want to put on my helmet just like everybody else and be a racer and race hard to make the feature on Saturday,” said Bryson. “I want to be the first (to make the Chili Bowl finale). It’s always cool to have your name on a title, but that’s not really my main focus to be the first female. I want to be just a good racer. I want to go out there and make it for myself because that’s something I’ve never done as a driver.”
As far as what lies ahead after the Chili Bowl, Bryson has a lot of hopes and dreams. Last year she made her debut in an asphalt late model thanks to support from Toyota Racing Development and won three times in the Pacific Northwest.
She expects to run a few more late model races this year, but she’s looking at grander things on the horizon, including, hopefully, racing a 410 sprint car.
“It was super fun because the first time I ever got in a late model we picked up a win. I wasn’t expecting it, but its super fun to be able to go out there and be diverse in racing,” Bryson said. “I get to switch from dirt racing to pavement racing. I’m just having a blast doing it.
“I’ve got a couple of pavement races, but as a driver I want to get into winged sprint cars. I want to race 410s. I think that’s the next step in my racing career, to get into sprint cars. It’s something I’m really trying to make possible this year.”