Chili Bowl Nationals teams practice in Claremore

Teams Opt for Early Chili Bowl Practice on Saturday TULSA, Okla. (January 5, 2008) -- It's a Saturday just a couple of days prior to the biggest motorsports event of the year, the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals atop the famed Tulsa ...

Teams Opt for Early Chili Bowl Practice on Saturday

TULSA, Okla. (January 5, 2008) -- It's a Saturday just a couple of days prior to the biggest motorsports event of the year, the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals atop the famed Tulsa Expo Raceway 1/4-mile clay oval.

Bitterly cold temperatures earlier in the week have finally succumbed to pleasant weather, with temperatures flirting with the 70-degree mark. What do you do?

If you're some of the teams entered in the Chili Bowl Nationals, you take full advantage as Will Rogers Raceway in Claremore, OK, just a half hour or so northeast of Tulsa, swung open its gates for an open practice session.

And 20 or teams took to the 1/5-mile oval in preparation for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, which runs from Tuesday to Saturday, January 8-12.

Some drivers tested new rides. Others tested new components. But, most importantly, it served as an opportunity to work out some bugs that could have otherwise proven to be a major problem without the extra shakedown.

Taking his first laps in a new DRC-chassis Midget, Missouri's Jesse Hockett detected an oil leak in his first session. Oil leak repaired, Hockett got in several sessions to become comfortable with the car.

Dustin Morgan of Collinsville, OK, took in the most practice laps, working the bugs out of a new injection system after the first couple of runs.

Gary Taylor, a Washington state native now calling Sapulpa, OK, home, was trying out a new fuel injection system as well. And he was also getting his first laps in a new Triple-X chassis, the only one of its kind that will compete in the Chili Bowl.

After three separate runs, Taylor was satisfied. "It did what we wanted it to do, it responded to the changes we made to it and we know what to expect. We're very pleased with it."

Tim McCreadie, the 2006 Chili Bowl champion, was originally slated to pilot a Triple-X as well. But when his engine wouldn't fit properly within the frame rails, the McCreadie team will try something else. No such problems for Taylor and the Tel-Star Communications team though.

While some teams successfully worked out some unexpected obstacles, others weren't so fortunate.

Kevin Battles turned just a few laps before his engine tossed a rod through the block, likely lessening Tuesday night's Pre-Qualifier roster by one.

And in the opening session of the day, Justin Hendricks (aboard Scott Benic's No. 6J) tested the integrity of the third turn wall. The wall proved sturdy, inflicting major damage on the machine.

Jerrod Wilson, fresh off winning another Golden Driller in "A" Class Micro Sprint competition at last weekend's Tulsa Shootout, turned a few laps before breaking a valve retainer in the powerplant. "I don't think it's anything major, we'll be alright," Wilson commented. "I was just starting to get a good feel for the car, I was getting an idea of just how far I could push it into the corners. It's quite an adjustment from the Micros."

Among those taking in the practice session were Donnie Ray Crawford, Jasiel Randolph, Dustin Morgan, Justin Melton, Jonathan Beason, Jesse Hockett, Gary Taylor, Sam Hafertepe, Jr., Dennis Rodriguez, Kevin Battles, Dex Eaton, Ricky Williams, Darren Stewart, Jerrod Wilson, Brady Short, Justin Hendricks and Jonathan Halford, who struggled getting his car to fire all day.

Also spied taking in the activities was Matt Sherrell, who is set to pilot one of the eight Keith Kunz Motorsports entries. "They just finished putting the cars together and are on the way," Sherrell relayed. "I'm thrilled to be driving one of their cars, I'm really looking forward to this week."

Will Rogers Raceway is slated to host another practice session on Sunday afternoon from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.

-credit: cbn/lw

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Series Midget
Drivers Darren Stewart , Dustin Morgan , Tim McCreadie , Justin Melton , Jonathan Beason , Dex Eaton , Dennis Rodriguez , Matt Sherrell , Donnie Ray Crawford , Gary Taylor
Teams Williams