Bowtie Brigade Era Begins at Chili Bowl Tony Stewart Racing Geared Up for Midget Car Debut with Chevrolet INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 8, 2007) - Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) is poised to make headlines at this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget...
Bowtie Brigade Era Begins at Chili Bowl
Tony Stewart Racing Geared Up for Midget Car Debut with Chevrolet
INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 8, 2007) - Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) is poised to make headlines at this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals as the team ushers in a new era of grassroots motorsports with the debut of Chevrolet as its engine supplier and sponsor.
Owner Tony Stewart, the two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, will lead his team's four-car effort by driving the No. 20 TSR/Spike/Chevrolet. TSR's United States Auto Club (USAC) drivers - Levi Jones and Tracy Hines - will join Stewart and dirt late model driver Josh Richards in the "Super Bowl of Midget Racing" at the Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Center Jan. 9-13.
"I'm excited about bringing my own team to the Chili Bowl this year," said Stewart, whose past Chili Bowls - including a win in the 2002 event - came while driving for other car owners. "It's great that we're going to be able to kick off our new partnership with Chevrolet at one of the biggest open-wheel races of the year. It will be kind of like a coming out party for Tony Stewart Racing and Chevrolet. I'm looking forward to working with Ray Smith, the program manager for Chevrolet, as well as the entire Chevrolet team.
"Having Levi Jones return as a driver for us this year is great, and joining him will be Tracy Hines, a proven commodity in midget and sprint car racing. We'll also have a dirt late model driver - Josh Richards - in a Chevrolet-powered TSR car. Together, we're sure to be competitive, but we're also sure to have a lot of fun.
"We'll be taking four brand new cars and we'll be competing with the new Hawk-prepared Chevrolet engines. Our team has worked really hard to make this all happen and we're ready to go."
TSR veteran Jones will return to the Chili Bowl for a third time. The 2005 USAC National Sprint Car Series champion will pilot the No. 20J TSR/Spike/Chevrolet. Jones will seek to earn his first event victory to kick-off the 2007 racing season.
"The Chili Bowl is a tough event, but each time you compete you bring more valuable experience with you," Jones said. "You definitely need a little luck to go your way, but the good cars and teams have a way of rising to the top on Saturday night. It's really cool to be a part of Tony Stewart Racing's first appearance in the Chili Bowl. We've been working hard to prepare for this week and we're ready to get a new season started with a positive swing through Tulsa."
Scheduled to compete in Wednesday night's preliminary event, Jones is also looking forward to competing with the team's new Chevrolet powerplant.
"Being a part of the partnership between Tony Stewart Racing and Chevrolet is one of the neatest deals I've ever been involved with, not only in my racing career, but in my entire life," added Jones. "We believe this program is going to be one of the strongest in open-wheel racing. The new Chevrolet engine that we're going to compete with is a really nice piece. It's based off of powerplants that I've competed with in the past and had lots of success with. Chevrolet has really jumped in with both feet and we're looking forward to a long relationship with them."
Hines will make his first start for TSR this week. He'll drive the No. 21 TSR/Spike/Chevrolet. Having won the event in 2005, Hines is no stranger to the high-stakes competition the Chili Bowl presents. His Thursday preliminary event is loaded with competition, and Hines is looking forward to the challenge.
"The Chili Bowl is a great way to kick-off the season," Hines said. "After having a few weeks off, it's great to come to this event and have this level of competition. The speed and quickness of the track makes this event a great one for both the fans and the competitors. I'm also looking forward to my first race as part of Tony Stewart Racing. I'm beginning a new chapter in my racing career, and to do so with a team like this is a real honor. A victory this week would be a great way to start the season for both our team and for Chevrolet."
Hines knows preparation plays a pivotal role in the outcome of an event such as the Chili Bowl. He feels he and his team are well prepared for anything that might come their way.
"We've put some long hours in at the shop over the past few weeks, but preparation is definitely the key to success on the race track," Hines said. "Being prepared for anything that might come your way is essential to performing well. We've worked to make sure the cars and engines are as competitive as they can be, and the time spent in the shop has allowed us to mesh as a team."
Eighteen-year-old Richards, the youngest member of TSR's Chili Bowl lineup, will return to the event behind the wheel of the No. 20R TSR/Spike/Chevrolet. The 2005 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Rookie of the Year narrowly missed making the A-main field at the 2006 Chili Bowl. He and car owner Stewart will go head to head in Friday night's preliminary event. Richards is flattered to be a part of the Bowtie Brigade's debut.
"It's great to be a part of Tony Stewart Racing for my second Chili Bowl event," Richards said. "We've been really busy with preparations for the upcoming World of Outlaws Late Model Series season, but I'm looking forward to getting back into a midget as part of such a strong team. It's also cool to be part of Chevrolet's debut at the Chili Bowl."
While slinging a dirt late model is Richards' forte, he has plenty of experience running midgets. Combining the two talents makes him a strong competitor at this year's Chili Bowl.
"Driving a midget is a lot different from driving a late model," Richards said. "Everything happens at a much quicker rate in the midget versus the late model. A midget drives off its rear tires, while a late model drives off the front tires. I've been working out quite a bit in the past few months to prepare myself for getting back into the midget. You have to be sure you are up to both the mental and physical challenges that a race like the Chili Bowl presents."
The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals brings together auto racing's best for one of the most prestigious open-wheel events of the season. Created by Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards in 1987, the star-studded event has seen 15 different winners in its 21-year history. The Tulsa Expo Center, which hosts the annual event, features an indoor quarter-mile dirt oval with clay from the adjacent fairgrounds. More than 10,000 spectators annually attend the Saturday night finale of the event.
"If I could only compete in one dirt track event a year, the Chili Bowl would definitely be it," Stewart said. "The Chili Bowl sees the best of the best in dirt track racing come together to try to win. You've got the best midget, non-winged sprint and winged sprint car drivers in the country, as well as some of the best late model and eastern dirt modified drivers in the business, competing under one roof. That level of competition shows why it's such a tough event to compete in. Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards do a great job putting it all together. We're looking forward to bringing our team to the event for the first time to debut a brand new program."
This year's edition will feature five full days of racing action. Over 280 competitors - the largest number in event history - will compete in four qualifying nights of racing in an attempt to qualify for Saturday night's A-main finale. Each qualifying night will feature heat races, last chance races, A-qualifier events, two B-main events and a qualifier A-main feature event. Saturday's 50-lap A-main event finale will be preceded by the running of numerical main events, fondly referred too as the "alphabet soup." Passing points also play into the mix. Race fans will see the top-24 competitors go head-to-head in Saturday's A-main event, with the winner taking bragging rights and a $10,000 purse.