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Chili Bowl Time in Tulsa; January 11-15, 2011


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Chili Bowl Time in Tulsa!

 

by Lonnie Wheatley

 

Tulsa, Oklahoma (January 5, 2011) – For a solid week each January, the entire racing world finds itself living on Tulsa time. Race fans and teams from throughout the nation and beyond flock to the birthplace of Route 66 by the thousands, with those unable to make the journey following along as closely as possible in any manner possible.

 

It’s the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. And, there’s simply no comparison.

 

This year marks the Silver Anniversary of the unique Midget racing event that attracts the best of the best from virtually every form of auto racing, from the NASCAR ranks to Sprint Cars, Late Models, Midgets and more to the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway, a ¼-mile clay oval that occupies the lower level of the QT Center each January.

 

The 25th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals currently has an entry list that numbers 264 with competitors representing 29 different states as well as New Zealand and Australia. The inaugural edition in 1987 drew 52, the century mark was eclipsed for the first time in 1994, the count climbed over 200 in 2003 and topped out at 281 (for now) in 2009.

 

That influx of race teams and fans transform the City of Tulsa each January. And, early signs of that transformation are already apparent. By this time next week, motel parking lots will be full, rental car parking lots will be empty and restaurants throughout the city will be bustling with Chili Bowl-crazed race fans.

 

The whole Chili Bowl experience begins for the teams on Sunday, when every inch of space in the QuikTrip Center is maximized with the parking procedure that gets every one of the 260-ish entries in the building for the week.

 

Monday features a practice session for all from approximately 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m., a chance for teams to fine tune the ultimate race-winning setup.

 

The first official green flag of the week flies on Tuesday night, the first of four qualifying nights that will ultimately set the grid for Saturday’s Rockstar Energy Drink slate of Lucas Oil Chili Bowl championship feature events.

 

Tuesday’s Warren Cat Qualifier also includes the Third Annual Vacuworx International Race of Champions. VIROC III includes a total of 16 past Chili Bowl champions (drivers and car owners) and standouts in a special feature race, an attractive add-on to a Tuesday qualifier that has proven to be perhaps the best night of action of the week in recent years.

 

With 264 entries, the number of potential story lines is naturally monumental. A few basics follow….

 

Back to Back – In 24 previous editions of the Chili Bowl Nationals, no driver has ever pulled off back-to-back wins. This year, it’s 21-year-old Kevin Swindell’s turn to try for the repeat after becoming the youngest winner in Chili Bowl history last January.

 

Ten or More – There are only ten drivers on the planet that can boast ten or more career Chili Bowl championship feature starts. At least five of those will be trying to add to their total, including five-time Chili Bowl king Sammy Swindell. Swindell tops the charts with 17 career Chili Bowl championship feature starts, with others competing this year including Tracy Hines (11), Dave Darland (11), Jerry Coons, Jr. (11) and Jason Leffler (10).

 

Others that have started ten or more include Danny Lasoski (14), the late Kevin Doty (13), Tony Stewart (10), Donnie Beechler (10), Kevin Olson (10). NASCAR Sprint Cup star Stewart, a two-time Chili Bowl champ, will be the event’s virtual Grand Marshall while turning Sprint Car circles Down Under.

 

With nine previous starts in the big 50-lap finale, two-time Chili Bowl king Cory Kruseman tries to become the eleventh driver to reach double digits.

 

Streaking – Tucson native Jerry Coons, Jr., carries the longest active streak of Chili Bowl championship feature starts into the event. Coons has made the feature cut over each of the past seven years, with back-to-back fourth place finishes the last two years his best at the Bowl. After several years in the Wilke-Pak camp, Coons joins forces with 2B Racing and Canadian Glenn Styres this time around.

 

Indiana reps Shane Cottle and Brad Kuhn have both started five features in a row, 2010 Chili Bowl runner-up Cole Whitt has made it to the finale over each of the past three years and Sammy Swindell, Bobby East, Chris Windom, Brad Loyet and Thomas Meseraull have both started two in a row.

 

Dave Darland holds the Chili Bowl record of ten consecutive championship feature starts in a row, a streak that ended last year.

 

Other stretches equal to or greater than the current Coons run include eight in a row for Donnie Beechler from 1992 through 1999 and streaks of seven for Sammy Swindell (1987-1993), Kevin Doty (1990-1996) and Ron Shuman (1991-1997).

 

Chili Bowl Vets – There are only four drivers that have competed in 20 or more editions of the Chili Bowl. Sammy Swindell and Rich Camfield are ready to match Donnie Lehmann at the top of the seniority charts with their 21st start. Steve Knepper, an original Chili Bowler, is the fourth that has started 20 Chili Bowls, a mark that 1990 Chili Bowl champ Johnny Heydenreich and Steve Newman will reach this year.

 

Originals – Looking for a good comparison of the original Chili Bowl in 1987 to the modern version? Aside from the promotional duo of Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards, one could also ask the likes of Johnny Heydenreich, Sammy Swindell, Steve Newman, Dean Franklin and Scott Hatton. Those five drivers, set for action next week, were among the 52 that competed in the inaugural Chili Bowl.

 

Rookies – The Chili Bowl has a little bit of everything, from the old-timers to the newbies. This year’s edition of the Chili Bowl currently includes 53 event rookies.

 

The rookie crop includes the following, listed in numerical order: 0tn-Bill Stines, 01-Orval Zane Burke, Jr., 2c-Bud Carroll, 2r-Levi Roberts, 3a-Dustin Arnall, 3r-Robbie Ray, 3s-Chris Springer, 4c-Joey Price, 4m-Evan Margeson, 4r-Dustin Hapka, T4-Adam Tischhauser, 5k-Kent Schmidt, b5-Brandon Sheppard, 06-Mario Clouser, 6a-Jason Cox, 7h-Layne Himebaugh, 8r-Rico Abreu, 9m-Cory Mallo, 9s-Justin Sanders, 10m-B.J. Martin, 11T-Tyler Groenendyk, 12-Chris Gurley, 12d-Troy Decaire, 12r-Brian Rieck, 13-Rowdy McClenon, 14az-Mike Daniels, 15n-Conner Kassik, 17kx-Kyle Chady, 19d-Steven Drevicki, 19jr-Chad Shields, 20b-Jimmy Owens, 21b-Christopher Bell, 23F-Matthew Fox, 25e-Courtney Erfurth, 25k-Dereck King, 33h-Cameron Hagin, 37x-Seth Motsinger, 38k-Brian Deegan, 39r-Dustin Boney, 39T-Tyler Courtney, 45x-C.J. Johnson, 47jr-Kevin Michnowicz, 51p-Dalten Gabbard, 57s-Steven Schaberg, 67k-Dalton Armstrong, 67x-Britton Bock, 69m-Mark Chisholm, 73a-Alex Sewell, 75x-Mike English, 77b-Mike Boesel, 94-Darren Kingston, 97x-Chris Ennis, 911-Mike Baker.

 

Champs – The Chili Bowl entry list is annually dotted with numerous champions from the year previous. And, this year is no exception, as at least 19 champs from 2010 are set for Chili Bowl action.

 

Some newly-crowned champions include:

 

Dalton Armstrong - USAC Regional Midgets

Brian Brown - Sprint Cars @ Knoxville Raceway

Steve Buckwalter - ARDC Midgets

Orval Zane Burke, Jr. – 600cc Micro Sprints @ Ocean Speedway

Bryan Clauson - USAC National Midgets

Jason Cox - Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series

Nick Foster, Jr. - BCRA Midgets

Chett Gehrke - SMRS Midgets

Tyler Groenendyk – B Modifieds @ Southern Iowa Speedway

Mike Hess - BMARA Midgets

Shane Hollingsworth – Non-Wing Sprint Cars @ Lincoln Park Speedway

Levi Jones – USAC Silver Crown and USAC National Sprint Cars

Kyle Larson - Golden State Challenge Sprint Cars

Brad Loyet - POWRi Midgets

Thomas Meseraull - Non-Wing Sprint Cars @ Gas City I-69 Speedway

Jon Stanbrough - King of Indiana Sprint Series

Eric Todd - Winged Outlaw Warriors Sprint Cars

Matt Westfall - Non-Wing Sprint Cars @ Waynesfield Motorsports Park

Chris Windom - Non-Wing Sprint Cars @ Kokomo Speedway

 

NASCAR Flavor – While Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart aren’t scheduled for Chili Bowl competition as in previous years, there are still several that make their living under the televions lights on the asphalt that are ready to play in the dirt.

 

J.J. Yeley, author of several chapters of Chili Bowl lore in past years, has spent the biggest portion of recent years in the Sprint Cup ranks. Sprint Car grad Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who still ranks as the youngest winner in Lucas Oil ASCS National history, earned NASCAR Nationwide Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and Jason Leffler (ready to wheel a Kasey Kahne Midget) is an established contender on the Nationwide series as well.

 

Josh Wise, part of the Kenny Brown Racing camp for the Chili Bowl, made another 25 Nationwide starts in 2010, while Short Track Nationals (I-30 Speedway) champ Brad Sweet tested the NASCAR waters with eight Camping World Truck Series starts and one Nationwide start.

 

Also, from ARCA world is Dakoda Armstrong. The open wheel grad posted a pair of wins in 2010, including one at Talladega, en route to a seventh-place finish in points. Dakoda is teamed with younger brother Caleb, while youngest brother Dalton has defected to the Keith Kunz Motorsports camp.

 

Lucky Charms – Racers can be a superstitious lot. And, after winning the recent indoor race at Du Quoin, it’s a safe bet that Casey Shuman will once again keep that lucky zebra-skin print thong tucked safely away in his pocket.

 

Shuman is part of a potent Loyet Motorsports camp that also includes POWRi Midget champ Brad Loyet, 2008 Chili Bowl champ Damion Gardner, Kiwi sensation Michael Pickens and talented journeyman Gary Taylor, who looks forward to a ride that includes the “Taylor” nameplate for the first time since last year’s Chili Bowl.

 

Sooner State Hopeful – In 24 previous editions of the Chili Bowl, the coveted Golden Driller trophy has only stayed within the host state of Oklahoma on one occasion, that coming in a previous century when Broken Arrow’s Andy Hillenburg bested a field of 104 in 1994.

 

This year, 27 Okie reps are among the 260-ish field, and Vegas oddsmakers have tabbed Brady Bacon as the one with the best to chance to keep the Driller in-state with other Sooner shoes that have reached Chili Bowl finales including Donnie Ray Crawford, Wayne Johnson and Mike Goodman.

 

Coming off a 2010 campaign that netted a strong runner-up ranking in Lucas Oil ASCS National points, the 20-year-old Bacon from Broken Arrow is hooked up with the Keith Kunz Motorsports team that took Chili honors with Jay Drake and Tony Stewart in 2001 and 2002.

 

After collecting wins in Kansas, Arkansas and Oregon, Bacon is part of a four-car Kunz stable in which all the drivers (Cole Whitt, Dalton Armstrong and Casey Riggs) are 22 or younger.

 

Young ‘Uns – As the Silver Anniversary of the Chili Bowl is celebrated next week, each year a larger and larger number of event competitors are younger than the event itself. This year, at least 72 (approximately 30%) of the listed entrants weren’t around yet when the first Chili Bowl took place in 1987.

 

All 25 – One surname has been included in the results of every Chili Bowl; “Knepper”. Steve Knepper competed in the inaugural Bowl and each one after until 2006, when the torch was passed on to Nick. Nick will be back aboard the familiar No. 55 with Micro master Dereck King in the second Knepper mount.

 

Fenders & Two-Wheelers – While the bulk of the Chili Bowl competitors come from the open-wheel ranks, there are always a few that come from stock cars and such.

 

This year, Late Model ace Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN, tries to follow in the footsteps of Tim McCreadie, who became the first non open-wheeler to conquer the Chili Bowl five years ago. “The Newport Nightmare” is part of the Kenny Brown Racing team that also includes Josh Wise, Austin Brown and Hunter Schuerenberg.

 

Trading in two wheels for four is Omaha native Brian Deegan. A founding member of the Metal Mulisha, the professional freestyle motocross racer ventures into Midget racing for the first time in a Cory Kruseman entry.

 

VIROC III – Tuesday’s festivities are livened up by the Vacuworx International Race of Champions, which includes past winners (Sammy Swindell, Damion Gardner, Scott Hatton, Jay Drake, Cory Kruseman, Tracy Hines, Johnny Heydenreich, Kevin Swindell and Tim McCreadie) representatives for past car owner champs (Dave Darland, Garrett Hansen, Cole Whitt and Jason Leffler), the defending VIROC champ (Brad Loyet) and a pair of wildcards (J.J. Yeley and Bryan Clauson).

 

VIROC is in addition to a full qualifier that includes heats, qualifiers and feature events. And it’s the only night with a few tickets remaining. It’s pit passes only for the balance of the week.

 

Double Duty – A scheduled VIROC competitor, Bryan Clauson will do double duty on Tuesday night as he also competes in that night’s Warren CAT Qualifier. For the 2010 USAC Midget champion and two-time National Midget Driver of the Year, about the only piece of Midget hardware missing from the 21-year-old’s mantel is a Golden Driller. Topping both the Belleville Midget Nationals and the Turkey Night Grand Prix over each of the past two years, Clauson’s top Chili Bowl effort thus far was a fourth in 2008.

 

Clauson is teamed with the rookie trio of Levi Roberts, Dustin Boney and Tyler Courtney. Roberts carries a No. 2r, with the other three variations of 39 (39c, 39T, 39r) to match the Corey Tucker Racing initials.

 

Top of the List – The Chili Bowl register of competitors dating back to 1987 currently includes 1,099 names. In alphabetical order, California’s Karting sensation Rico Abreu will be at the top of that list after his rookie Bowl effort next week.

 

Not Since Bubba – Chili Bowl competitors from Florida have been few and far between. In fact, the last to claim Florida as home was noted shock jock Bubba the Lovesponge, who went for a wickedly unforgettable ride down the frontstretch in 2005.

 

The Florida flag will be back in Saturday’s ceremonies, as two-time TBARA asphalt Sprint Car champ Troy Decaire tries out the Chili Bowl for the first time.

 

The States – A total of 29 different states are represented on the entry list. And, as is typically the case, California leads the way with 55 entries followed by Illinois with 31 and then Indiana and Oklahoma with 27 apiece.

 

California 55, Illinois 31, Indiana 27, Oklahoma 27, Missouri 22, Arizona 12, Texas 12, Colorado 6, Kansas 6, Pennsylvania 6, Nebraska 5, Arkansas 4, Iowa 4, Tennessee 4, Wisconsin 3, Wyoming 3, Georgia 2, South Dakota 2, Washington 2, Florida 1, Mississippi 1, Montana 1, New Mexico 1, New Jersey 1, New York 1, North Carolina 1, North Dakota 1, Ohio 1, Utah 1.

 

The state of Montana is on the Chili Bowl entry list for perhaps the first time, with Great Falls modified shoe Joey Price in a Chad Frewaldt mount.

 

International Flare – The Chili Bowl has international elements as well. New Zealand’s Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen both return as does Aussie Brad Cox. Both Pickens and Mosen are perfect in championship feature starts per attempts (Pickens is two for two, Mosen is one for one), while Cox started a qualifying night feature last year.

 

There is Canadian representation as well with Glenn Styres listed as a co-owner on the Jerry Coons, Jr., entry, eh.

 

The Ladies – No batch of Chili is complete without a few lady contenders, and this year’s edition includes five. Shannon McQueen knocked down a pair of BCRA Midget wins in 2010, Michelle Decker ranked among the top ten in ASCS Sooner Region points, Randi Pankratz ranked fourth in USAC Western States Midget points, Julee Jamison was fourth in RMMRA points and Chili Bowl rookie Courtney Erfurth was fourth in Badger Midget points.

 

International Flare – The Chili Bowl has international elements as well. New Zealand’s Michael Pickens and Brad Mosen both return as does Aussie Brad Cox. Both Pickens and Mosen are perfect in championship feature starts per attempts (Pickens is two for two, Mosen is one for one), while Cox started a qualifying night feature last year.

 

School in Session – “The Professor” is back in the house, as California’s Jimmy Sills shrugs off retirement to compete in his first Chili Bowl since 2006. A fifth-place finisher in 1999, Sills has reached five Chili Bowl finales. Sills is teamed with fellow Cali native Justin Grant, who has been mixing it up among Indiana’s wingless Sprint Car ranks.

 

Another pair of drivers returning to the Chili Bowl after extended layoffs are Clay Klepper and Johnny Herrera. Klepper hasn’t seen action since the 2005 Chili Bowl and is teamed with despised nemesis Jay Drake, according to Scooter Ellis team PR.

 

Herrera, coming off another strong year in the Sprint Car ranks, returns to action at the Chili Bowl for the first time since 1995. Albuquerque’s Herrera is teamed with New Jersey’s Billy Pauch, Jr., in a second Speequip entry.

 

Tuned Up – A couple dozen or so drivers got an early look at the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway this past weekend at the Tulsa Shootout, including Brady Bacon, Levi Jones, Donnie Ray Crawford, Gary Taylor, Andrew Felker, Dustin Morgan, Scotty Weir, Tim Crawley, Kevin Ramey, Matt Sherrell, Justin Melton, Evan Sewell, Alex Sewell, Cameron Hagin, Billy Lawhead, Jonathan Beason, Kevin Bayer, Andrew Deal and Tyler Courtney.

 

Crawley just missed out on a win in the Chevy Ecotec Midgets, while Deal got it done in the “A” Class Micro Sprints.

 

Lap Sponsors – A long-standing Chili Bowl traditions, all variety of businesses and individuals have stepped forward to sponsor laps in the Saturday night 50-lap Chili Bowl finale. All laps offer up $100 bonus cash including $50 for first, $30 for second and $20 for third, with $2,000 total on the Midway lap, which is still available. The full list of lap sponsors is available at http://www.chilibowl.com/lapsponsors10.asp.

 

Past Feature Starters – Among the current entries, 67 drivers have started at least one Chili Bowl championship feature in the past. Sammy Swindell leads the way with 17 starts.

 

Sammy Swindell 17, Jerry Coons, Jr. 11, Dave Darland 11, Tracy Hines 11, Jason Leffler 10, Cory Kruseman 9, Scott Hatton 8, Shane Cottle 7, Jay Drake 7, J.J. Yeley 6, Brad Kuhn 5, Jimmy Sills 5, Jon Stanbrough 5, Matt Westfall 5, Steve Buckwalter 4, Bobby East 4, Tony Elliott 4, Davey Ray 4, Joe Boyles 3, Josh Ford 3, Damion Gardner 3, Mike Hess 3, Rick Hendrix 3, Johnny Heydenreich 3, Bud Kaeding 3, Tim McCreadie 3, Casey Shuman 3, Cole Whitt 3, Chris Windom 3, Aaron Berryhill 2, Rich Camfield 2, Donnie Ray Crawford 2, Don Droud, Jr. 2, Garrett Hansen 2, Wayne Johnson 2, Levi Jones 2, Brad Loyet 2, Thomas Meseraull 2, Michael Pickens 2, Daryn Pittman 2, Troy Rutherford 2, Danny Stratton 2, Kevin Swindell 2, Josh Wise 2, Daniel Adler 1, Brady Bacon 1, Brent Beauchamp 1, Chad Boat 1, Bryan Clauson 1, Zach Daum 1, Ryan Durst 1, A.J. Fike 1, Dean Franklin 1, Mike Goodman 1, Shane Golobic 1, David Gough 1, Jonathan Hendrick 1, Shane Hollingsworth 1, Kyle Larson 1, Brad Mosen 1, Bobby Michnowicz 1, Tony Roney 1, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1, Brad Sweet 1, Gary Taylor 1, Brandon Waelti 1, Paul White1.

 

Experience – Even with 53 rookie contenders, this year’s Chili Bowl field currently combines for 1,040 years of Chili Bowl experience.

 

 

Additional information, including the current list of entries for the 25th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals is available at http://www.chilibowl.com/2011chilibowlentries.asp.

 

 

Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Quick Facts:

 

What: 25th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals

 

Where: Tulsa Expo Raceway – ¼-mile clay oval inside the QuikTrip Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds

 

When:

January 11-15, 2011

Tuesday – Warren CAT Qualifying Night plus Vacuworx Int’l Chili Bowl Race of Champions

Wednesday – River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night

Thursday – Qualifying Night

Friday – Vacuworx International Qualifying Night

Saturday – Lucas Oil Championship Feature Events

 

Past Winners: Kevin Swindell (2010), Sammy Swindell (2009, 1998, 1996, 1992 and 1989), Damion Gardner (2008), Tony Stewart (2007 and 2002), Tim McCreadie (2006), Tracy Hines (2005), Cory Kruseman (2004 and 2000), Dan Boorse (2003 and 1999), Jay Drake (2001), Billy Boat (1997), Donnie Beechler (1995), Andy Hillenburg (1994), Dave Blaney (1993), Lealand McSpadden (1991), Jon Heydenreich (1990), Scott Hatton (1988), Rich Vogler (1987).

 

Trade Show: Always a popular attraction at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is the Trade Show, which is open to the public each day (Tuesday through Saturday) free of charge. All variety of racing products, apparel and more is available with well over 100 different vendors. The Trade Show covers approximately 20,000 square feet.

 

Tickets: A limited number of reserved seats for Tuesday night's Warren CAT Qualifying Event and the Third Annual Vacuworx International Chili Bowl Race of Champions are available for $43 per person and may be obtained by calling 918-838-3777 or at the gate if still available. Pit passes for all five nights are available at the gate as well.

 

Chili Bowl on TV: Portions of the 25th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals will be broadcast on SPEED TV on a tape-delayed basis.

 

Chili Bowl on the Net: All official news pertaining to the 25th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, including official entry lists, race results and recaps, is available first at www.chilibowl.com. Also, all five nights of the Chili Bowl Nationals will be broadcast live (audio) on www.racinboys.com.

 

Additional information regarding the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is available at http://www.chilibowl.com/ or by calling 918-838-3777.

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