TULSA, Okla. (January 1, 2003) - With the initial green flag for the 17th Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals set to unfurl over Tulsa Expo Raceway's quarter-mile dirt oval next Wednesday, January 8, the much-anticipated list of combatants for each night of qualifying action has been established. More than 200 of the nation's top drivers are set to battle over three qualifying nights to determine feature lineups for Saturday night's (January 11) prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals finale.
Countless champions representing numerous series from all forms of racing, including sprint cars, midgets, Silver Crown, late models and modifieds, assures that each night of qualifying action is loaded with plenty of potential victory lane candidates.
Highlighting Wednesday night's qualifying action will be three former Chili Bowl winners, including four-time winner Sammy Swindell, the only driver to claim more than one Chili Bowl title. Past winners Jay Drake and Dan Boorse will be in competition as well, along with 2001 World of Outlaws champion Danny Lasoski.
A pair of drivers that nearly made their way to victory lane in the 2002 edition of the Chili Bowl will be in competition on Thursday night. USAC Sprint Car champion Tracy Hines, who had the field covered in the early going until mechanical gremlins brought an early end to his 2002 Chili Bowl run, will be on hand, along with Kevin Doty, who settled for second after a hard-fought battle for the lead. USAC Silver Crown champion J.J. Yeley and BMARA champion Aaron Fike are among Thursday night's other top contenders.
Defending Chili Bowl winner and 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart headlines Friday night's entries, with two-time USAC Midget champion Dave Darland, former Chili Bowl champion Cory Kruseman and wingless wonder Tony Elliot included among the list of top competitors for the final night of qualifying action.
This year's Chili Bowl will also feature the First Annual Cherokee Casino Ford Focus Midget Race of Champions presented by Ford of Tulsa, which will be held as a preliminary event to Saturday night's finale. The event, which benefits local charities, will feature championship drivers from various forms of racing including Stewart, Yeley, Lasoski, Darland, ASCS champion Tim Crawley, DIRT Modified hotshoe Brett Hearn, UDTRA and UMP Late Model champion Scott Bloomquist and NHRA stars Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps in equally-prepared Ford Focus midgets.
The regular drivers of the Ford Focus midgets will take to the track as well on Thursday and Friday night. The Ford Focus midget driver who records the best average finish in Thursday's 15-lap event and Friday's inverted 20-lapper will round out the Midget Race of Champions ten-car field.
For those unable to attend the Chili Bowl, live coverage of all four nights of action will be available on the internet at www.RSBN.net. Live results updates for all four nights will also be available at www.whowon.com. The Chili Bowl will also be televised on ESPN2 the next day, Sunday January 12, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST.
With more than 220 cars expected in total for the mid-winter classic, Chili Bowl management is offering $150 to a limited number of teams that agree to unload their cars and equipment inside the Tulsa Expo and park their haulers outside. These pit stalls are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Teams interested need to contact Lonnie Wheatley in the Chili Bowl office at 918-838-3777.
The complete list of entries by qualifying night, along with the Midget Race of Champions and Ford Focus midget entries, is available at www.chilibowl.com.