Who will win the Chili Bowl?

2006 O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Winner? The Media Speaks TULSA, Okla. (January 7, 2006) -- A red-hot topic of conversation in recent weeks around water coolers, dinner tables and race shops all across this great land has been, "Who...

2006 O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Winner? The Media Speaks

TULSA, Okla. (January 7, 2006) -- A red-hot topic of conversation in recent weeks around water coolers, dinner tables and race shops all across this great land has been, "Who will win the 20th Anniversary of the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals?"

Will NASCAR Nextel Cup champ Tony Stewart get a second Golden Driller? Will defending Chili Bowl champ Tracy Hines become the first back-to-back winner in event history? Will Cory Kruseman or J.J. Yeley give car owner Andy Bondio a fourth Golden Driller? Will Sammy Swindell add one for the thumb? What darkhorse can pull off the big win in the House of the Golden Driller?

A number of esteemed members of the Auto Racing media have been polled (and we all know how painful that can be), each sharing their opinion on who the winner may be. There are no prizes for making the correct prediction (other than bragging rights), and no harsh penalties for an incorrect selection. Much like the atmosphere that surrounds the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals itself, it's all in good fun. So, kick back and enjoy.

Here's what the experts have to say:

Anthony Andro -- Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Selection -- Tony Stewart

"There's no better driver in the country right now in any circuit. He's finished in the top four three of the last four years here and the only reason he didn't last year is because he was in an accident. And by the way, did I mention he's Tony Stewart."

Dave Argabright
Selection -- Dave Darland

"The short list of potential winners is nearly a dozen--Kruseman, Stewart, Sammy Swindell, Hines, to name just a few--so this will be a tough race to win. But I have a hunch it will beDave Darland, because he's been very close in recent years and he's racing with a lot of confidence right now. My sentimental favorite would be Kevin Olson."

Tony Bokhoven -- Chili Bowl Announcer
Selection -- Jay Drake

"An experienced Midget racer and a former Midget champion, I have to go with Jay Drake. He's got the talent and with the Kunz team he's in a great car. He's just had some really bad luck the last several years at the Chili Bowl; all Jay Drake needs is a little bit of good luck to get that second Golden Driller. One thing's for sure, it's gonna be another Jim Dandy!"

T.J. Buffenbarger -- www.tjslideways.com
Selection -- J.J. Yeley

"I think that if J.J. Yeley can survive his qualifying night and even come close to the A-Main we will see him take home a Golden Driller. This year, hooking back up with Andy Bondio is the key. If he does not have to charge the alphabet, Yeley will win."

Bryan Gapinski -- Founder, National Midget Driver of the Year award
Selection -- Danny Stratton

"Predicting the winner of the O'Reilly Chili Bowlbefore practice begins on Tuesdayis like trying to picksix correct Powerball numbers. However, eliminating many factors can give us a clearlist of possible candidates. With 269 entries and drivers with various midget racing experience, one mistake can eliminate an event favorite.

Not since 1993 whenDave Blaney waltzed into the Expo Square has the event produced a rookie winner. No winner has started further back than 16th place, highly unlikely 2006 will change this record. No driver has won two years in a row, Hines could be the first asthe Wilke-PAK team finished first and third last year.Esslinger Engineering,the winner of the Manufacturer of the Year Award, has yet to win a Chili Bowl. Over 50 drivers will utilize this powerplant including former winners Sammy Swindell andBoorse, look for a possible win on Saturday for the South El Monte, Calif. company.

Tony Stewart could win the Chili Bowl and Rolex 24 in the same month. Brad Kuhn, the Driver of the Year and winningest driver in '05, looks for his first Driller trophy.

The Bondio team and the Kunz teams have all visited victory lane with different driver and chassis combination over the years and should also rank as favorites.

Danny Stratton, the hottest driver on dirt in fall,is my pick to bringhome the trophy after a breakout performance in '04."

Gary Guehler -- Texas Motor Speedway
Selection -- Sammy Swindell

"No need to go far down the entry list to run across the winner of the 2006 O'Reilly Chili Bowl - #1, Sammy Swindell. The veteranwill return to Victory Lane glory for the fifth time following the 50 laps of Chili Bowl mayhem.

Why? Why not? Swindell can run the Chili Bowl cushion as well as anybody. His formative years of racing on Memphis bullrings suits him perfectly for sliding through traffic in tight quarters, plus I think the will to win will be near an all-time high.

Placing a wager (is that legal?) on the Chili Bowl? You could parlay the Swindell family; if Sammy doesn't get #5, he may be joining son Kevin in celebrating #1. Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be another memory-maker."

Don Hubbard -- Columnist, Sooner Circles
Selection -- Scott Hatton

"In 2006 I am going to go with Roscoe, Illinois driver, Scott Hatton. It has been eighteen years since Scott won his Chili Bowl Feature. He has always been a great competitor but luck was not always on his side. With eight feature wins and his second consecutive Badger Midget Championship in 2005 and losing his best friend Kevin Doty this year, I think he would like to win one for Kevin."

Len Hayward -- Sports Editor, Midland Reporter Telegram (Midland, TX)
"The favorites:

Sammy Swindell -- Can't go wrong with four wins at the Chili Bowl.

Steve Kinser -- A weird offseason may have him motivated to win one.

Cory Kruseman -- Even though he can't use the ski, never count out Kruseman and Bondio.

Darkhorses:

Bart Hartman -- Not too bad his first couple of times around the Chili Bowl.

Ray Bull -- Wasn't intimidated by Tony Stewart.

Tony Stewart -- A new team, Tony will be tough.

Kasey Kahne -- Because my wife said so."

Alan Holland -- www.hoseheads.com

Selection -- Cory Kruseman

"Cory Kruseman is always so fast at the Chili Bowl, he and car owner Andy Bondio just seem to have that place figured out so it's hard to bet against him."

Mike Kerchner -- Senior Editor, National Speed Sport News
Selection -- Steve Kinser

"For me it is hard to go against Andy Bondio's cars with two talented drivers like J.J. Yeley and Cory Kruseman driving, but I'm going to pick Steve Kinser. He may be a bit of a darkhorse, but after everything that has happened off the track this winter I have to believe that he's going to be really focused when he gets in the car. I say Keith Kunz's well-prepared car and the King's talent will win the 20th annual Chili Bowl."

Jack Miller -- Columnist, Sprint Car & Midget Magazine
Selection -- J.J. Yeley

"There are possibly two dozen very capable drivers who could win the Chili Bowl in 2006. If I had to put my finger on one driver to win the "Big One" it would be J.J. Yeley. In my opinion, J.J. did not have as much success in 2005 as he had hoped for and knowing the talent and determination of his, he will be at the top of his game in 2006. He has the ability and he has the car to win the Chili Bowl this year if he can get by the qualifying night with just a little more luck than he has had in the past. I wish the very best to all the entries."

Jerry Reigle -- Area Auto Racing News
Selection -- Ray Bull

"Ever think what gives a guy motivation to focus a whole year on how to win the prestigious Chili Bowl? How 'bout a top-five finish the previous season...Bull's thirst to grab the top Chili Bowl podium needs quenched.

Besides, last year he zipped from mid-pack to finish fifth. That's not too bad for one who rarely races indoors.

And Bull is the King of ARDC as proven by his six ARDC Championships. At the 2005 Chili Bowl, Bull went from eighth to third in Thursday's heat race then took fifth in the qualifying feature. Let's not forget how he led the whole B Main, which earned him a spot in the big show.

One other thing:Isn't Pennsylvania the hot-bed for all forms of racing?"

John Rittenoure -- Tulsa World
Selection -- Tony Stewart

"I will give the edge to Tony Stewart. He won the Fort Wayne race last week and seems to have the ability to put himself in contention where ever he goes. Since the last month or so of the NASCAR season Tony came on strong and seems to be at the top of his game right now."

Pat Sullivan
Selection -- Cory Kruseman

"It would be hard to bet against Cory Kruseman. The Kruser has won twice and easily could have captured the Golden Driller a few more times as well. It seems that in certain events, certain cars seem to shine. Even when Andy Bondio's cars fail to reach victory lane at the Chili Bowl they always seems to make noise and this is one of those magical driver/owner combinations that always seems to bear fruit."

Mike Sweeton -- Chili Bowl Announcer
Selection -- J.J. Yeley

"I really hate making these kind of predictions, but J.J. Yeley is one guy who has been consistently fast at the Chili Bowl and is really due for a win. If he can avoid the qualifying night gremlins that have haunted him, Yeley will be the winner."

Randy Ward -- Chili Bowl Announcer
Selection -- Josh Ford

"Josh Ford was a preliminary feature winner a year ago at the Chili Bowl and earned a top five finish on Saturday night. He knows how to beat the competition at the Tulsa Expo Raceway and what it takes to be there to get his first Golden Driller."

Justin Zoch -- Editor, Flat Out Magazine
Selection -- Cory Kruseman

"For me, its almost impossible to pick a winner out of 269 entries with the myriad variables the Chili Bowl poses, but Cory Kruseman in Andy Bondio's wacky 47 has to be the prohibitive favorite. Since 1999, Kruseman has two wins, two seconds, a third and a 13th place finish due to a dead battery when he was leading with a handful of laps left. If you're scoring at home, that's pretty good. Kruseman and Bondio at the Tulsa Expo Center may be the most dominant combination in racing. I can think of few other combos that are a sure thing at the Chili Bowl."

After putting each of the above on the spot (and thanks to all for your participation), I would be remiss if I didn't climb out on the proverbial limb as well by attempting the nearly impossible -- predicting a winner for the 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

So, here it is.

LONNIE WHEATLEY
Selection -- Levi Jones

"Toss 50 or so names into a hat, draw one out and a strong case can be made for each. But after the season he had in 2005, it's hard to bet against Levi Jones.

Levi got a taste of victory lane in 2005 and just liked it so much he kept winning, and winning and winning. Aggressive with a perfect mix of patience and smooth as silk in Scott Benic's Sprint Car, Levi heated up in August by dominating the Sprint Bandits TNT Tour then took USAC Sprint Car championship honors to boot. Tony Stewart took quick notice and signed him to the Tony Stewart Motorsports camp for 2006.

If he can apply the same winning technique to his Midget ride, Levi could easily be the first to see Roger Slack's checkered flag in Saturday night's championship feature. And after getting his feet wet at the Chili Bowl last year, Levi knows exactly what to expect this time around."

More O'Reilly Chili Bowl information:

What: 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals

Where: Tulsa Expo Raceway -- 0x00bc-mile clay oval inside the Tulsa Exposition Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds

When: January 11-14, 2006. Wednesday - Creek Nation Casino Qualifying Night; Thursday -- Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Qualifying Night; Friday -- Warren CAT Qualifying Night; Saturday -- Features. Hot laps on each qualifying night begin at 5:00 p.m., with racing action going green at 6:15 p.m. Saturday hot laps begin at noon, with Twin "K" Features kicking off the march through the alphabet to Saturday night's 24-car Championship "A" Feature event.

Past Winners: Sammy Swindell (1998, 1996, 1992 and 1989), Cory Kruseman (2004 and 2000), Dan Boorse (2003 and 1999), Tracy Hines (2005), Tony Stewart (2002), Jay Drake (2001), Billy Boat (1997), Donnie Beechler (1995), Andy Hillenburg (1994), Dave Blaney (1993), Lealand McSpadden (1991), Jon Heydenreich (1990), Scott Hatton (1988), Rich Vogler (1987).

New Award: A new award will be up for grabs this year, as Advantage Trucks & Salvage, Inc., of Lancaster, NY, is offering a $1,000 prize to the Best Appearing car.

Current Entries: 269 entries from 31 different states, surpassing the 2005 Chili Bowl record of 249 competitors.

Past winners already entered include Tony Stewart, Sammy Swindell, Cory Kruseman, Dan Boorse, Jay Drake, Scott Hatton and defending race champion Tracy Hines.

Other top drivers already entered include Kasey Kahne, 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser, Danny Lasoski, Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley, All-Star champion Chad Kemenah, ASCS champion Gary Wright, USAC/CRA champion Damion Gardner, ARDC Midget champion Ray Bull, USAC and Sprint Bandits TNT champion Levi Jones, USAC Midget champion Josh Wise, Kevin Swindell, Jason Leffler and Late Model aces Tim McCreadie, Bart Hartman and Jeep VanWormer.

Entries represent numerous racing disciplines, including NASCAR, winged and non-wing Sprint Cars, Midgets, Late Models and NHRA drag racing among others.

At least 31 different series or track champions are entered, with a Rookie class numbering 72 entries.

Trade Show: Always a popular attraction at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is the Trade Show, which is open to the public each day (Wednesday through Saturday) free of charge. All variety of racing products, apparel and more is available with well over 100 different vendors. The Trade Show covers approximately 20,000 square feet.Preferred Parking: A limited number of Preferred Parking spaces are still available for all four nights of the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals by calling the ticket office at 918-838-3777.

Buffet: The cafeteria at the east end of the Tulsa Expo Center will offer an all-you-can-eat buffet each day (Wednesday through Saturday) from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. for just $10 per person.Tickets: Tickets for the 20th Anniversary of the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals were depleted in mid-October. Pit passes for each night of racing action are available.

Practice Session & Press Conference: A practice session for the 20th Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals will take place on Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. until approximately 7:00 p.m., immediately following the 1:00 p.m. Press Conference in the Tulsa Expo Cafeteria at the east end of the building.

O'Reilly Chili Bowl on the Net: All four nights of racing action will be webcast live at www.racinboys.com. Complete information, including entry lists, updates and official results is available at www.chilibowl.com.

Additional information regarding the O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is available at www.chilibowl.com or by calling 918-838-3777.

-lw-

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Billy Boat , Donnie Beechler , Andy Hillenburg , Danny Lasoski , Kasey Kahne , Steve Kinser , Brad Kuhn , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Sammy Swindell , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Levi Jones , Josh Wise , Josh Ford , Ray Bull , Dave Blaney , Damion Gardner , Tim McCreadie , Scott Hatton , Danny Stratton , Chad Kemenah , Jack Miller