World of Outlaws

CBN: Record High Entry List Highlights 29th Chili Bowl in Tulsa

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TULSA, Okla. —†Itís the time of the year when everyone starts to have race withdrawal. This year there has been a little relief with the Winter Heat Series in Arizona to see some fire breathing sprint cars racing on a 3/8ís mile track.

But the biggest event in off-season racing is coming up this next week. The 29th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl. This race is king of the midget races.

This event is like Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the past. It is THE race that everyone wants to win. The coveted Golden Driller (named because of the 76 foot tall oil statue in front of the venue) is a trophy that almost all of the competitors hope to hoist after Saturday’s final feature.

The race is held in one of the coldest months in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This race will never be rained or snowed out. Why? Itís held inside on a small dirt track. Thatís right. A dirt track indoors. And we have all gone there when thereís ice on the ground and snow. Lots of ice and snow.

The race track takes a while to get into the building. The dirt from the old fairgrounds speedway was taken off the track when it converted to horseracing, and is stored on the fairgrounds, in a covered area. Over 7,000 cubic yards has to be brought in, in dump trucks, and then shaped into the banked race track and infield.

To pull off an event like this also takes a special place. It is held in the International Petroleum Expo center, now known as the Quik Trip center. The building is 448,400 square feet, without center columns. The clear span roof over the center allows pits for over 300 plus race cars, a trade show, and seating for 15,000+ fans.

All kinds of racing drivers strive to win this event. Indy car drivers have tried. Professional Drag race drivers have tried to win it. NASCAR champion Tony Stewart has raised the Golden Driller in victory twice (2002 and 2007).† Prior to his winning it, he had expressed in interviews that the one trophy he most wanted was that Golden Driller.

The majority of the Chili Bowl winnersí trophies reside with one family. The Swindells, father Sammy and son Kevin, of World of Outlaw and NASCAR fame. Both will be competing again this year. Sammy has the most wins, with five, and son Kevin had his streak of 4 straight wins broken last year by Bryan Clauson. One of Kevin’s wins was commemorated with a Silver Driller in honor of winning the 25th Annual Chili Bowl in 2012.

When the event started in 1987, the feature was only 30 laps, and was won by the late Rich Vogler. The field was just over 50 cars, with sprint car drivers being in the majority. Since then the winners have been a virtual Whoís Who of American racing. And itís not only Americans that try to win this coveted trophy. Drivers from all over the world come to try and take it home. Drivers from New Zealand, Australian, Canada, and Finland have come to race on the clay at Tulsa to try and take it home. And itís still one of the trophyís that a lot of racers want and will try to win.

This year’s edition of the Chili Bowl has the largest field in history. Over 316 entries have been received for the event. The pits will be very crowded. So crowded in fact that the promoters have asked some of the smaller teams to double up on trailers so that all of their spares and tools can be inside the building in their pits. All of the cars are trying for 24 spaces in the Championship race to win the Driller. The field is broken down into 4 nights of racing. A new field every night. They have to go through heat races, and then transfer racing to gather passing points to advance to the features each night. If a driver places in the top three of the A feature during the preliminary night, they are locked into the ĎAí feature on Saturday night. The balance of the A will be filled from Saturdayís top B feature finishers.

NASCAR’s Kenny Wallace will be making his maiden race in a midget. He explained on Twitter that Tony Stewart has been telling him for years to come to the race, and if he came, he may as well race. An announcement yesterday said that Indy car owner and former driver Sarah Fisher will be making her first start in any race car since she stepped out of Indy cars in 2010, at this yearís Chili Bowl.

These are the big names. Also vying for the trophy will be NASCAR Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson. Heís no rookie to midget racing, and has shown quite well the past couple of years at the event. Christopher Bell of Oklahoma is coming off a great year on dirt, and also this yearís Belleville Midget Nationals winner Rico Abreu. Oh, theyíre on the same team.

Also, the Peopleís Champion, Dave Darland will also be on the roster. Former Chili Bowl champs Cory Kruseman, Johnny Heydenreich , Bryan Clauson and the Swindells will also be on hand. Along with some of the top names in racing from the world over.

Who will win this year? I have no idea. Itís takes a lot of daring, and skill to just make Saturdays Championship race. It also takes a lot of luck. You have to stay out of wrecks, not have a mechanical issue, or be taken out.

One thing is for sure. Whoever is in victory lane proudly holding the Golden Driller will be one of the proudest and best racers in the building, and the world.

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