A Few Bright Spots, But Overall Tough Night For ARDC at Chili Bowl Tulsa, OK - January 7 - With more than 250 of the best midget racers in the world vying for 24 starting spots in the 19th annual Chili Bowl, making it into one of the...
A Few Bright Spots, But Overall Tough Night For ARDC at Chili Bowl
Tulsa, OK - January 7 - With more than 250 of the best midget racers in the world vying for 24 starting spots in the 19th annual Chili Bowl, making it into one of the preliminary A-features is quite an accomplishment in itself. During the first two nights of competition, drivers from the American Racing Drivers Club asserted themselves quite well, with five of the eight ARDC drivers who attempted to qualify actually getting into their respective main events. The third night, however, was a different story.
Former Chili Bowl winner Johnny Heydenreich, steering one of the Miller Racing Team midgets, almost cracked the A-feature lineup. Heydenreich, who grew up in Bloomsburg, PA but now resides in Indianapolis, finished a close second to Mike Hess in heat race number five. That put Heydenreich on the outside of row two in the second B-main, where the top-four finishers transferred to the evening's main event. Unfortunately, Heydenreich was collected by a spinning car in the B-main, and the resulting damage was too severe for him to continue.
Two-time ARDC champion Bryan Kobylarz of Birdsboro, PA, placed third in his heat race. Kobylarz started the first B-main in 12th spot, but mechanical problems knocked him out of that event.
Another Birdsboro resident, Mike Miller, raced into the lead after starting third in heat race number 11. Soon after claiming the top spot, however, the magneto broke on Miller's Stealth chassied midget, forcing him to the sidelines. The crew quickly changed the defective magneto, but Miller had to retire from C-main #1 before he could even take the green flag. The engine's timing was off due to the magneto change (the crew didn't have enough time to properly adjust the timing), causing the Don Ott prepared engine to spit and backfire badly.
One of the young lions on the Mega Motorsports Team, Carey Becker, finished seventh in heat #3. Making his first Chili Bowl attempt, the Reading, PA resident started on the pole in the D-main and won it. The victory launched Becker into C-main #1, where he finished fifth. Only the top two cars from the C-mains advance, so Becker's night ended there. All in all, though, it was not a bad performance by the chauffeur of the Stealth/Gaerte no. 20.
Connecticut's Chris Morway wound up sixth in his heat race, putting him 12th on the starting grid for C-main #2. Due to mechanical problems that could not be corrected in time, Morway was not able to start the C-main.
The "Kruser", two-time and defending Chili Bowl champion Cory Kruseman, captured the A-main on Friday evening. Kruseman won his heat, started on the pole in the feature, and led every lap en route to the first-place payoff. P.J. Jones, son of the legendary Parnelli Jones, chased Kruseman to the checkered, with USAC star Dave Darland coming home in third. Bobby East, the 2004 USAC National Midget Champion, and Brian Gerster rounded out the top five.
Other notables from Friday's event: Steve "King" Kinser, the World of Outlaws sprint car star, won his heat race and finished 11th in the A-main. NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Kasey Kahne, a former USAC open-wheeled stud, had to come through one of the C-mains, then a B-main, to make the field for the main event. Kahne started 17th in the second B-main and finished fourth to become the final qualifier for the 25-lap feature. He finished 23rd after getting involved in a lap-22 melee. DIRT Modified superstar Brett Hearn and dirt Late Model champion Rick Eckert did not even make it to the pair of B-mains.
Everyone gets a final chance, or possibly several chances, to race their way into the 24-car starting field on Saturday. The biggest sporting event in the state of Oklahoma concludes on Saturday night with the running of the 50-lap Chili Bowl.
Live updates during each day's proceedings can be seen on www.whowon.com. Results are also posted on www.chilibowl.com.