Chili Bowl Nationals report

Dramatic last lap pass nets Boorse Chili Bowl crown Lonnie Wheatley - TULSA, Okla. (January 11, 2003) - Staying in the hunt throughout Saturday night's 50-lap 17th Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals main event at Tulsa Expo Raceway, Wisconsin's...

Dramatic last lap pass nets Boorse Chili Bowl crown

Lonnie Wheatley - TULSA, Okla. (January 11, 2003) - Staying in the hunt throughout Saturday night's 50-lap 17th Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals main event at Tulsa Expo Raceway, Wisconsin's Dan Boorse took advantage of Cory Kruseman's ill fate to move into third on a lap 46 restart, then rode the cushion around Tony Stewart for second and then Jay Drake on the final round to claim his second Chili Bowl Nationals championship before a record crowd of 14,630.

"Anytime you can win on the last lap in a race like this, it's special," stated Boorse in the post-race press conference. "There's nowhere else you can go and have over 200 cars and still have a track in this great of shape. We didn't really feel like we could catch Kruseman, so we just tried to hang in there and things worked out in the end."

"Dan said to me 'You don't ever run the low line'," stated a dejected Drake. "I told him that I usually don't, because when I do something like this happens. Two hundred guys here would be thrilled to run second in the Chili Bowl Nationals, and I'll probably feel good about it in a couple of days, but right now to give it up on the last lap is just awful, it's the worst feeling you could ever have."

Boorse, who won Wednesday night's Bud Shootout Qualifier, led the 24-car field to the green flag with Friday's Cherokee Casino Qualifying Showdown winner Kruseman alongside. The first two attempts to start the race were waved off, first for Randy Koch's turn one flip, then for Drake, who came to a halt in turn two after tangling with another machine. Boorse got the jump on the next start and led the way into turn one, with Kruseman, Stewart, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Thursday Night Thunder at the Bowl winner Scott Hatton and Jason Meyers in pursuit.

Boorse paced the opening five rounds, with Kruseman applying heavy pressure to the leader. Kruseman's challenges paid off on the sixth round as he dove underneath Boorse entering turn three to take command. Kruseman gradually established a lead as Boorse held second over Hatton and Stewart.

Meanwhile, Sammy Swindell was turning in the most improbable of performances. After a disastrous qualifying night, Swindell began Saturday's action inside the fourth row of the first E Feature. Swindell navigated his way through the alphabet soup of features, ultimately earning the 17th starting position for the A Feature by virtue of his third place effort in the first B Feature.

Having already passed 46 cars en route to the main event, Swindell continued his march to the front, moving all the way up to fourth, in front of Stewart, by the 15th round when the caution flew for Jeff Flesher's disabled mount in turn four.

Swindell quickly disposed of second and third place runners Boorse and Hatton on the ensuing restart and began reeling in Kruseman. Swindell was nipping at Kruseman's heels when his hopes for an unprecedented fifth Chili Bowl title went up in smoke on the 24th round as his motor expired, bringing out the caution. As Swindell was pushed to the pit area, the standing room only crowd gave him a resounding ovation in appreciation of his stellar effort.

As Kruseman resumed his quick pace, enter USAC Midget champion Dave Darland into the mix. After finishing second in the first B Main, Darland methodically picked his way through traffic from his 15th starting position, having moved into fourth by the time the caution for Swindell's misfortune flew.

Darland needed less than two laps to move around Boorse and Hatton for second, setting his sights on the fleet Kruseman. Darland's strong drive to the front would end prematurely as well though, as he exited to the infield on the 35th round with left rear suspension problems.

As if all this action weren't enough to thrill the massive crowd, Drake was recovering from his opening lap mishap quite well. After restarting at the tail of the field, Drake worked his way through the competition masterfully, breaking into the top five by the 30th round. After Darland's departure, Drake had worked his way up to third when the caution flew after 37 circuits for Luke Icke's stalled mount in turn three.

The caution flew again one round later when Dallen McKenney, who flipped after taking the checkered flag in the sixth and final transfer spot in the second B Main, took another tumble down the backstretch.

With Kruseman still leading the way, Drake used the low line to get around Boorse for second on the 39th round. Drake pressured the rim-riding Kruseman for a couple of laps before Kruseman began to gradually slip away from Drake, Boorse, Stewart and Hatton.

The final caution, which proved to be Kruseman's undoing, flew with five rounds remaining when Greg Lueckert's Chili Bowl run came to an end while holding down a top ten position. Lady Luck frowned on Kruseman at this point, as a dead battery sent Kruseman to the pit area, dousing "The Kruser's" victory hopes and handing the lead to Drake.

Set for a five-lap dash to the checkered flag, Drake stuck to the low groove, leading a resurgent Stewart and Boorse. Boorse elbowed up on the cushion, making his way past Stewart with two laps to go and setting his sights on Drake.

While it appeared that Drake held enough advantage over Boorse to notch his second Chili Bowl triumph, Boorse had other ideas as he hammered the cushion on the well-prepped quarter-mile oval. Drake held the lead as the white flag flew, but Boorse rode the rim through turns one and two and overtook Drake as the pair charged down the backstretch on the checkered flag lap.

Boorse rode the final two corners to perfection to snatch a car-length victory in the Weiland Race Enterprise Gaerte Ford-powered Stealth. Drake settled for a second place finish aboard the Stewart-Kunz Motorsports Mopar-powered machine, with Stewart finishing a close third. National Midget Driver of the Year for 2002, Aaron Fike, made a late charge to claim fourth, with Hatton rounding out the top five.

Meyers was the top finishing Chili Bowl rookie as he crossed the stripe sixth, in front of fellow race rookie Don Droud, Jr. Matt Westfall, Mike Hess and Damion Gardner completed the top ten.

After losing a motor in Thursday's heat race action, J.J. Yeley provided the day's early excitement as he charged from the back of the first H Feature to claim the win. Yeley kept the crowd on its feet early as he then advanced through the G, F, and E Features in dramatic fashion, before falling two spots short of a transfer position in the first D Feature.

Drake and Robby Flock topped the B Features, with Wally Pankratz and Tim Shaffer claiming C Feature victories. Tony Elliot and Bobby Boone won the D Mains, while Swindell and Brandon Waelti aced the E Features. Michael Lewis and Shane Cottle were victorious in F Feature action, while Toby Brown and Dick Kaiser claimed the G Features. Yeley and Josh Wise kicked off the day of racing action for the 203 total Chili Bowl Nationals entries by winning the H Features.

Three-time American Sprint Car Series champion Tim Crawley bolted from his third starting position into the lead on the opening round of the First Annual Cherokee Casino Ford Focus Midget Race of Champions presented by Ford of Tulsa. Crawley led wire-to-wire to record the victory over some of the nation's top championship drivers from various forms of racing, collecting $5,000 for his charity sponsor, the Special Olympics of Oklahoma.

Crawley was chased to the line in the Race of Champions by Dave Darland, Ford Focus midget representative Josh Lakatos, Brett Hearn and Danny Lasoski. Yeley was sixth, in front of Stewart and Scott Bloomquist. After an opening lap tumble in the 15-lap charity event, Gary Scelzi flipped wildly across the finish line to finish ninth, with fellow NHRA drag racer Ron Capps in tenth.

-cbn-

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Scott Bloomquist , Danny Lasoski , Michael Lewis , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Sammy Swindell , Aaron Fike , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Matt Westfall , Josh Wise , Wally Pankratz , Jason Meyers , Shane Cottle , Brett Hearn , Robby Flock , Josh Lakatos , Brandon Waelti , Damion Gardner , Scott Hatton , Tim Crawley