Traditional Sprint Car FanSite

See You At The Races!!!

by Tim Kennedy

Los Angeles, CA. - If it's early January it must be time for the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The annual indoor midget racing classic, the equivalent of the NFL Super Bowl, started in 1987 as the brainchild of current promoters Lonnie Edwards and Emmett Hahn. The 21st annual Chili Bowl expanded dates are Tuesday, January 9 through Saturday, January 13. Pre-entry fee per car is $150 and post-deadline entries are $200. A record field of 281 cars entered the 2007 event, topping the old record of 260 last year.

There were so many entries in 2007 promoters for the first time added a fifth night on Tuesday as a pre-qualifying racing night for new entrants/rookies. Heats, C, B and A main (25-laps) for the 79 cars assigned to Tuesday competition. Rules allowed the first 15 finishers in the Tuesday A main to advance to Wed., Thur. or Fri. night racing (five competitors to each of the three subsequent nights). All other competitors would load up their cars-their 2007 Chili Bowl was finished.  Promoters again secured sponsors for each night of racing--Warren Caterpillar (Tues.), Creek Nation Casino (Wed.), Bass Pro Shops (Thur.) and Oklahoma Dodge Dealers (Fri.). Drivers assigned per night were 68
Wednesday, 69 Thursday and 64 Friday, plus the five drivers per night from the Tuesday
pre-qualifying competition. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A. J. Foyt agreed to serve as 2007 Chili Bowl Grand Marshal.

What makes the Chili Bowl so attractive to fans around the nation is the fact that it kicks off the new racing season and takes place during winter when all racing teams are available before their own circuits begin racing. Therefore, drivers from NASCAR, USAC, World of Outlaws sprints, dirt late model circuits, NHRA and nearly all midget racing associations around the USA compete as do some drivers from other nations. Also, there is no worry about rain-outs because the Chili Bowl takes place indoors in a huge, block-long building, the Tulsa Expo Center, home of "The Golden Driller" large statue outside the building
in tribute to the area petroleum industry. The quarter-mile clay track is laid out at one end of the building and it holds up for two and three wide racing during the week with frequent massaging by the track crew. All race team haulers and racing pits are inside the building. Rain, hail or snow do not stop Chili Bowl racing. The facility is sold out and SRO crowds of 12 to 15,000 are common in recent years. When I attended the 1991 and 1992 Chili Bowl four-day events you could still buy grandstand seats a month before the event. That is not the case currently, even though more grandstand seating has been erected since the 1990s. 

Chili Bowl 2007 entered drivers came from 28 states and two countries, Australia (2 drivers) and Canada (1 driver). Eight cars were entered without drivers listed. The top ten states by driver representation were Calif.-61 (about 20% of the total drivers), Okla.-30, Ind.-27, Ill.-26, MO.-18, Ariz.-16, Tex.- 13, Colo.-12, Wis.-10 and Penn.-9. Other represented states (alphabetically with number of drivers in parenthesis) were Ark.-(2), GA.-(1), IA- (4), Kan.-(7), Mich.-(1), Miss. (1), N.Dak.-(1), Neb. (7), Nev. (1), N.J-(2), N.Y-(5), OH.-(3), S.Dak.-(1), Tenn-(3), UT-(1), VA-(2), Wash.-(3) and W.VA.-(1). Drivers of note this year include from NASCAR: Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, J. J. Yeley, Jason Leffler, Tracy Hines and Bobby East. WoO sprint car vets include Sammy Swindell, Danny Lasoski, Daryn Pittman, Randy Hannagan and Terry McCarl. Indy 500 veterans are Billy Boat, A. J. Foyt IV and P. J. Jones. NMRA drag racer Cruz Pedregon entered his own midget. USAC is represented by numerous current and past champions and feature winners from Silver Crown, sprint car and midget series.

There are 32 different midget chassis builders represented in the impressive field. The ten constructors with the most cars in the field are Stealth with 86 cars, Spike with 54, Ellis-22, Beast-17, F5-14, Bullet-13, TCR-10, Eagle-7, Maxim-7, and Buzzard-6. Two constructors (Stealth and Spike) with 140 cars between them, account for half the field. Some entrants did not specify a chassis on their entry form. Other chassis builders with multiple cars in the field include Beaberbilt, Bishop Machine, Andy Bondio, Cobra, Edmunds Autoresearch, Keith Kunz, Holler, Rick Stewart, and Twister. There are 13 one-off cars in the field.

There are 33 different engine builders represented at the 2007 Chili Bowl according to entry blank information. Some car owners did not specify their engine. The ten engine builders with the most engines in the field are Esslinger Engineering with 52, Joe Fontana 46, Earl Gaerte 44, Chevy (by various builders) 18, Ford (various builders) 13, Gary Stanton Mopar 13, Hawk 12, Pontiac 9, Mopar 8 and LRP 6. Other builders with multiple engines entered include Autocraft (3), Barnes (2), Brayton Engineering (5 total--in Buick, Chevy or Mopar form), Don Ott (4), Ed Pink Ford (5 total--4 Ford and 1 Mopar), Pro Flyer (2 total in Buick and Ford livery), SB2 Chevy (4), Sesco (5), Stewart Van Dyne (4), Wirth (5 total-3 Mopar and 2 Chevy).  Solo engines came from Buick, Dyno Tech,
NZ1, Rennesport V4, Scat V4, Twister Ford and Toyota.

The 20 past Chili Bowl Saturday night A-mains have been won by 15 different drivers and seven of the past winners (who account for 12 of the 20 victories) are entered again this year. They are four-time Chili Bowl champion Sammy Swindell, two-time winners Dan Boorse and Cory Kruseman, and solo winners Billy Boat, Tony Stewart, Tracy Hines and Tim McCreadie, the surprising 2006 Chili Bowl winner/dirt stock car veteran. Father/son teams include Sammy and Kevin Swindell, 17, plus Billy and Chad Boat, 14. Father/daughter team Wally and Randi Pankratz are entered as well. Other younger generation drivers from racing families are Matt Sargent, of San Jose, CA, David Prickett, of Fresno, Casey Shuman (son of Ron) and P. J. Jones (son of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli). Lowest car number is 0 and the highest car number is 500.

The 2007 Chili Bowl entry list includes a growing contingent of female drivers. The ten female drivers include sisters Tracy and Michele Miller (Penn.) Jessica Zemken, a 20-year old CB rookie (N.Y), Michelle Decker (Okla.), Trish Dover (Neb.), Kaylene Verville (Ariz.), Samantha Taylor (Wash.) and Californians Randi Pankratz, Shannon McQueen and Audra Sasselli, a multiple feature winner and championship contender in USAC Ford Focus midgets. Oldest drivers entered are many-time BCRA midget champion Floyd Alvis, 72, from northern California, and Indy 500 veteran Tom Bigelow, 67, from Wisconsin. The youngest driver is Chad Boat, who turned 14 on May 30 and has been racing midgets, 360 sprint cars and ASA Speed Trucks at Arizona and California tracks.  Other young guns of note are teens Brady Bacon and Dustin Morgan. Billy Wease, the 2006 Thanksgiving Night Midget Grand Prix winner will race the No. 12ws Beast/Chevy owned by his father Bill.

USAC/CRA 410 Sprint Car Series drivers entered a strong contingent of 16 drivers-Cory Kruseman, Damion Gardner, Rip Williams, Mike Spencer, Charles Davis,Jr, Danny Sheridan, Josh Ford, Rickie Gaunt, Troy Rutherford, Johnny Rodriguez, David Cardey, Alan Ballard, Greg Bragg, Matt Mitchell, Garrett Hansen and Tony Everhart. It's great to see Rodriguez able to return to racing following his November 2006 flip at the Perris Oval Nationals that caused eye problems that ended his racing season. He will drive the # 7R Mark Priestley/Wiley Miller Bullet/Stanton Mopar in Tulsa. Absentees from the 2007 CB entry list include past winner Jay Drake and USAC veteran Aaron Fike.

STRONG TEAMS: Several teams have come to Tulsa with strong multi-car teams. They include Wilke-PAK Motorsports with Dave Darland, Kasey Kahne, '05 USAC National Midget champ Josh Wise and '06 USAC National Midget champ Jerry Coons, Jr in Spike/Stanton Mopars. Andy Bondio has Cory Kruseman and J. J. Yeley in his Bondio/Barnes entries. Tony Stewart Motorsports has Stewart, Levi Jones, Tracy Hines and Josh Richards in Spike/Chevy by Hawk entries. Pace Bros. Racing (cars 4 and 44) has Bobby East, Terry McCarl, Shane Cottle and Don Droud, Jr. Keith Kunz has Damion Gardner, P. J. Jones, Donnie Rae Crawford, Connor Pullen and Chris Windom in his fleet of Bullets with Esslinger and Fontana engines. Mike Sala has Robby Flock, Michael Trimble and Troy Rutherford with three chassis (Spike, Eagle and Stealth) and Wirth Mopar or Chevy engines. Lehmann Racing  # 31cars) entered six cars. Four car teams are those of Scooter Ellis and Cliff Blackwell (# 27a, b, c and d).

Likely winner of the 50-lap A main Saturday, the 2007 CB champion, will come from the following list of 12 drivers--Cory Kruseman, J. J. Yeley, Jerry Coons, Jr, Dave Darland, Sammy Swindell, Tony Stewart, Josh Wise, P. J. Jones, Kasey Kahne, Danny Lasoski, Tracy Hines or Tim McCreadie. My picks for podium finishes are Kruseman, Yeley and Coons with Darland my dark-horse for a first-time winner at the Chili Bowl. Both Yeley and Darland are overdue for a Chili Bowl Saturday night A-main triumph to add to their impressive racing resumes. CB rookie of the year should be Terry McCarl. Hard charger is anyone's guess. For those who cannot attend the 21st Chili Bowl in person, listen to it live on the Internet on To view it on VHS or DVD look for the annual ad from Greg Stephens offering his professional video account of every lap of
every race. Greg captures all the action.






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