Traditional Sprint Car FanSite

See You At The Races!!!

by Norm Bogan

Attending the Chili Bowl in January is much like a religious experience.  Zealous disciples from throughout the country make the journey to worship at the Altar of Clay in the Temple of Tulsa.  Each year, proselytizing efforts bring non-believers to experience more than two hundred gladiators in a chariot race that makes Ben Hur appear as a church social.

An oversized oilfield roughneck, known as the Golden Driller, overwhelms new arrivals as he beckons them to come inside.  Passing through the portals, the first time visitor is treated to the awesome sight of ten and a half acres of floor space uninterrupted by support posts.  Located within the walls is a racetrack, approximately a one-fifth mile oval, with grandstands on three sides and enough area to park over two hundred racecar trailers for pit activities.  In addition, a trade show is set up with booths catering to racers and fans alike.  There are numerous T-Shirt vendors, various manufacturers of racing safety equipment, representatives for several Halls of Fame and a number of photo booths, selling both current hero photos and nostalgia material from the past.  Several new racing books are offered for sale, along with racing jewelry and an opportunity to purchase the latest in racing chassis.

Promoters Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards have continued to develop this event over the past eighteen years, making it better in each ensuing year.  Convening at the Tulsa Oil Expo, racers from throughout the country come to challenge the best drivers in an indoor Midget race.  As the fields grew, it was necessary to add an extra night of racing to qualify the additional entrants.  This year’s event was a four-day extravaganza with 208 entries in the building.  The first three nights found a group of around seventy cars staged to vie for the eventual brass ring on Saturday night. 

Because of the large field of cars, efficiency is of the utmost importance.  The promoters have safety crews primed and working together to quickly take care of any altercation and clear the track.  This prevents the fans from getting restless with long delays and keeps the program on schedule.  As a completed race field clears the arena, the next group is entering the battleground.  Periodic breaks for track maintenance allow the fans an opportunity for restroom visits and a stop at the concession stand. 

Fans arrive early in the day, as this is one venue where the visitors are able to stroll through the pits and visit with the drivers and crews up close and personal.  They can also make a pass through the trade show, maybe picking up a t-shirt or some jewelry, a current book on auto racing or maybe a poster or old photos.  Of the numerous vendors, most have event deals to clear their last year’s stock out, before gearing up for the new season.  There are also a couple of auctions, which offer memorabilia, nearly all autographed for collectors.  After this first go round, you may want to stop by the concession stands for a hot dog or baked potato, ice cream dots or a funnel cake.  There is something for everyone.  After a respite and with batteries recharged, this whole scenario repeats with another pass through the pits and trade show.  Accessibility to the teams and drivers is a definite drawing card for the multitudes that generally only see the action from afar in the stands.   

On Wednesday, Danny Lasoski, Davey Ray, Dan Boorse and Steve Buckwalter advanced to the Big Dance, while Thursday’s finishers were Jason Leffler, Scott Hatton, Tracy Hines and Tony Stewart.  Friday’s cast consisted of Jerry Coons Jr., Cory Kruseman, Josh Wise and Danny Ebberts.  These cars filled the front half of Saturday’s A Main. 

A famous driver and an unknown rookie accomplished two spectacular drives on Saturday night.  J.J. Yeley was knocked out in a lap three incident of his “B” Main on Thursday.  Starting fourth in an “F” Main, J.J. advanced up through the alphabet to secure sixteenth starting position in the “A” Feature.  Watching Yeley maneuver through traffic, much of the time with his front end looking heavenward, gave the fans an idea why famed Manzanita announcer, Windy McDonald had coined the nickname of “Johnny Three Wheel” for J.J.  This Andy Bondio #47x creation was in an event of its own.  The car ran low, then high, drifting to mid-track and splitting between two other racers.  Yeley’s quest for redemption brought him to a third place feature finish.

The other outstanding performance was by Californian, Danny Stratton, a rookie, driving his own car with one crewman.  Stratton nearly duplicated Yeley’s effort as he came from the “D” Main to finish seventh in the Big Show.  Yeley moved up seventy-two positions, while Stratton claimed forty-eight.  Yeley claimed the Best Passing Award and Stratton garnered Rookie of the Race honors, just rewards for both drivers.

Andy Bondio just happened to have another car in the field, the #47 driven by Cory Kruseman.  This is the same car that Lealand McSpadden took to victory in 1991 and Kruseman brought home first in 2000.  With all the high dollar competition among engine manufacturers, the two Bondio cars ran engines developed by John Barnes.  The head on Cory’s car was fabricated in 1983. 

At the start of the “A” Main, Leffler jumped into the lead for three laps, before Lasoski assumed the point.  On lap 25, Kruseman passed the Dude and extended his lead on long runs, while much dicing was going on in the front pack.  Kruseman claimed his second Chili Bowl title, with Lasoski in second, Yeley to third, Stewart in fourth, Leffler in fifth, Boorse was sixth and Stratton came home in seventh. 

When asked if he had anything for Cory, the Dude responded, I was leading the race and he passed me.  Danny also commented that he passed on the World of Outlaws tour of Australia, so he would be available for the Chili Bowl, a race he desperately wants to win after his third runner-up finish.  Kruseman was running in New Zealand and made a twenty-two hour flight to be in Tulsa.  Savoring his win, Cory returned to New Zealand on Monday.

In the afterglow of the event, there had been a mass baptism of converts on Saturday night.  Nearly every newcomer vowed to return next year and can’t understand what took them so long to “See the Light”.  






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