Stewart Smokes Chili Bowl Nationals Field
Tony Stewart Racing, Chevrolet Capture Chili Bowl Victory
TULSA, Okla., (Jan. 15, 2007) - Owner/driver Tony Stewart led his Chevrolet-powered Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team to an impressive win in Saturday night's 21st annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center.
Stewart started the A-Feature from fifth-place after locking himself into the event finale with an impressive second-place finish in Friday's preliminary race. He took the lead on lap 10 of the 50-lap feature and never looked back, despite several caution periods that bunched up the field. When the checkered flag dropped, Stewart and his No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops machine had a straightaway lead over Interstate Batteries driver J.J. Yeley - his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing - and a second Golden Driller trophy to go alongside the one he earned at the 2002 Chili Bowl.
"This win was probably a little less dramatic on the track than in 2002, but it was probably three times more dramatic off the track," said Stewart, as this year marked his first Chili Bowl win as both owner and driver. "To win in one of my own cars and to get our first win for Chevrolet - I can't think of a better coming out party for our new sponsor. To have the weekend we had for Chevrolet and to win the biggest midget race of the year, that's what I'm excited about."
The victory gave Tony Stewart Racing, Chevrolet and Bass Pro Shops their first feature win of 2007.
"If you came to our shop three weeks ago, we had one car built out of the five that we brought here," said Stewart, whose Chevrolet-sponsored team fielded four cars for drivers Tracy Hines, Levi Jones, Josh Richards and Stewart, as well as one backup. "In a three-week period, Steve Smith and Hawk Racing Engines worked really hard getting five motors ready, and our team really put some long hours in to get the other four cars ready to come here. To be able to come to the Chili Bowl and not only win the event, but start two cars in the A-Main, really says a lot about the dedication of this race team."
Hines joined Stewart in Saturday night's event finale, and while battling a case of the flu, battled his way from 16th in the 25-car field to finish a respectable 10th. Hines earned his way into the A-Feature via a strong second-place finish in the preceding B-Main at the wheel of his No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops midget.
"I'm glad we made the A-Feature, but it would've been great to be up front battling for the win," Hines said. "We had a good car going into the A. We were able to move forward throughout the race. I would have liked to have finished fourth on Thursday night to be locked into the feature, but we had a good race. The Tony Stewart Racing team worked hard this week and we had a good first event with Chevrolet power."
Levi Jones also competed in the second B-Main on Saturday, finishing in the 18th position. After being caught up in two spins during green flag action, Jones had to restart from the tail of the field. Despite not advancing to the finale, he earned Tony Stewart Racing's first event win on Wednesday night, taking that night's B-Main in the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops entry.
"It was really cool to post the first win for Chevrolet," Jones said. "We tried some things out on Wednesday and found ways to improve. Even though we missed Wednesday's feature, I think we learned a lot that helped the team out on Saturday. The Chili Bowl is a really tough event. You have to have everything just right to navigate such a talented field. I think we learned a lot from this race and I'm looking forward to getting the season started."
Josh Richards wrapped up his second Chili Bowl appearance with a 10th-place finish in the first G-Main on Saturday. Driving the No. 20R TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops entry, Richards enjoyed the experience and is looking forward to returning next year.
"I really want to thank Tony Stewart and Chevrolet for the opportunity to come back to the Chili Bowl this year," Richards said. "We got behind in our heat race on Friday and that cost us, but I learned a lot each time I got in the seat. I really enjoy this event and I'd love to get the opportunity to compete again next year."