TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Christopher Bell used the Chili Bowl a year ago to open the biggest season of his career.

He's got a chance now to defend his victory, and perhaps launch yet another breakthrough for one of NASCAR's upcoming stars.

Bell scored a dominating win in Thursday night's qualifying event at the Chili Bowl to earn one of the automatic berths into the main event at the Tulsa Expo Center. The 55-lap Saturday night feature is the Super Bowl of midget racing.

Some 11 hours before his victory, Bell posted on Twitter: "The most nervous day of the year has arrived," regarding his qualifying chance at the Chili Bowl. Bell's win last year was the first of the season in which he went on to win five races and the championship in NASCAR's Truck Series. He also won a race in the Xfinity Series, and earned a promotion to Joe Gibbs Racing for a full-time ride in NASCAR this year.

Bell kept Toyota undefeated so far at the Chili Bowl. The manufacturer has won all three preliminary night races, and the Race of Champions.

There are 24 spots in Saturday night's main event, and openings have so far been claimed by Kyle Larson (Tuesday night winner), Rico Abreu (Wednesday night winner) and Bell. Also advancing by earning podium finishes were Brad Sweet, Tyler Courtney, Tyler Thomas and Kevin Thomas Jr.

Shane Golobic and Chase Johnson finished second and third behind Bell on Thursday night to lock into the feature.

The Chili Bowl features more than 350 entries racing to make Saturday night's feature. Among those scheduled to compete for slots in Friday night heats are Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe.

___

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/