A New Chili Bowl Record: 214 Entries and Counting!
TULSA, Okla. (December 28, 2003) - With the 18th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals set to fire off in less than ten days, pre-entries for the nation's most prestigious Midget racing event have flooded the Chili Bowl office at an unprecedented rate. Thus far, 214 entries have been received, with more expected in the days leading to the Chili Bowl, which takes place January 7-10, 2004, at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Drivers representing 22 different states from coast-to-coast have already entered, with 40 entries from California leading the way. Indiana and Illinois are next in number of entries, with entries also received from far reaching corners of the country such as Washington, Georgia and Connecticut.
Seven former winners are among the early entries, including defending Chili Bowl champion Dan Boorse of Milwaukee, WI. Boorse joined Sammy Swindell as the only drivers to win more than one Chili Bowl title.
Other past winners entered include 2002 victor, Tony Stewart, who also won the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. Others looking for a second Chili Bowl crown are Jay Drake (2001 winner), Cory Kruseman (2000), Donnie Beechler (1995), Johnny Heydenreich (1990) and Scott Hatton, who topped the second edition of the Chili Bowl in 1988.
USAC triple crown champion J.J. Yeley will vie for his first Chili Bowl championship, along with other series and track champions including Davey Ray (BMARA), Steve Knepper (MARA), Jon Stanbrough (Kokomo Speedway), Josh Lakatos (USAC Ford Focus Western States South), Kenny Lewis (RMMRA), Joe Boyles (SMRS), Todd Beach (NAMARS), Floyd Alvis (BCARA), Bud Kaeding (NWWC), Ray Bull (ARDC), Billy Alley (Knoxville Raceway 360-ci Sprints), R.J. Johnson (AMRA), Jerry Hammock (SSMA) and Aaron Fike (National Midget Driver of the Year).
NASCAR star Ken Schrader returns to his roots as he makes his first Chili Bowl appearance in ten years. Schrader will be aboard one of Jerry Russell's Eagle entries, teaming with World of Outlaws star Danny Lasoski and NHRA Funny Car hotshoe Ron Capps.
Kasey Kahne, recently signed to drive Ray Evernham's Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge on next year's NASCSAR Nextel Cup series, also returns to the Chili Bowl aboard the Zarounian-Kahne Motorsports entry after a year's absence.
MARA midget veteran Donnie Lehmann fields five cars, two of which will serve as Chili Bowl initiation ground for Late Model standouts Rick Eckert and Bart Hartman.
Three ladies join this year's Chili Bowl field as well, including Arizona's Amy Maris, who makes her second Chili Bowl appearance in a row, and Pennsylvania siblings Tracy and Michele Miller. Michele finished fifth in ARDC Midget points, just ahead of Tracy, who was sixth. Both Miller sisters just completed their first full year of Midget racing competition.
Even though an extra five rows were added to the upper level of the spacious Chili Bowl grandstands, no tickets for Friday's qualifying or Saturday night's finale remain. Only pit passes will be available for Friday and Saturday night.
A limited number of tickets are still available for Wednesday night's qualifying, as well as Thursday night's Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Thursday Night Thunder at the Bowl qualifier. Tickets are available by calling 918-838-3777.
Additional information regarding the 18th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals is available at www.chilibowl.com.