22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals -- The Rookies TULSA, Okla. (January 5, 2008) -- With a record field of 285 entries set to battle it out over five nights in the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals atop the 0x00bc-mile Tulsa Expo...
22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals -- The Rookies
TULSA, Okla. (January 5, 2008) -- With a record field of 285 entries set to battle it out over five nights in the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Nationals atop the 0x00bc-mile Tulsa Expo Raceway clay oval inside the QuikTrip Center, 70 of those drivers will be deemed "rookie" contenders as they get their first taste of Chili Bowl competition.
While some are self-admittedly thrill seekers, just itching to race in the Super Bowl of auto racing, others are verified thrill providers that can vie for a starting position in Saturday night's championship main event and possibly even the win.
The first crack at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals has historically proven to be tough sledding, particularly in reaching victory lane. Since the legendary Rich Vogler won the inaugural edition of the Chili Bowl in 1987 when the entire field would have been considered Chili Bowl "rookies", only one driver has captured the Golden Driller trophy in his first Chili Bowl attempt. That driver was Dave Blaney, who took the top spot in 1993. Since that time, no rookie has reached victory lane on Saturday night.
Will that change this year? That's a question that will be answered in full next Saturday night.
A look at the rookies:
0k-Don O'Keefe, Jr. (Pittsboro, IN) -- Fielding a two-car team that also includes fellow rookie Jason Holt.
00s-Jesse Stovall (Springfield, MO) -- A late addition to the field as he was named to drive the third Meents entry late Friday.
1b-Scott Crystal (Overland Park, KS) -- Takes the wheel of the second Boyles entry.
1d-Dennis Rodriguez (Camarillo, CA) -- A veteran of the West Coast wingless Sprint Car ranks.
1h-Hunter Schuerenberg (Sikeston, MO) -- It was obvious this kid had tremendous potential when he gave Gary Wright a run for his money at West Plains in 2005 as a 15-year-old. Has focused on the topless ranks since and enjoyed enough success that he has caught the eye of car owner J.J. Yeley.
2a-Tommy Bryant (Montgomery, TX) -- Ranked fifth in ASCS Gulf South Region points.
4R-Robby Ross (St. Joseph, MO)
5w-Kurt Davis (Milwaukee, WI) -- A past champ in winged Sprint Cars, Davis takes the wheel of one of the potent Wilke-Pak entries.
6J-Justin Hendricks (Stillwater, OK)
6m-Justin Mallo (Cheyenne, WY) -- Jumps from Big Country Speedway super stocks to the Chili Bowl.
7c-Doug Frye (Wheatland, MO)
7J-Jerrod Wilson (Tulsa, OK) -- A $10,000 winner in I-30 Speedway's 600 Nationals, added another Golden Driller in last weekend's Tulsa Shootout with an "A" Class win.
7m-Kevin Ramey (Fort Worth, TX) -- The two-time ASCS Sooner Region champion straps into a Midget for the first time. Joked after a brief practice session at Cowtown Speedway late in the season that, "They need to make the cockpit in these things bigger for a big ol' boy like me, but the Chili Bowl is the biggest race around and I can't wait." Waiting time is just about over.
7p-Anthony Peterman (Crawfordsville, IN)
7r-Blake Miller (Anaheim, CA) -- Top-ten in USAC/CRA points.
7T-Eric Todd (Falcon, MO) -- Has decimated Missouri's 305-ci Sprint Car ranks and hopes that translates into Midget glory.
8J-Jason Holt (Brownsburg, IN) -- Teamed with Don O'Keefe, Jr., was a top Gas City gasser in wingless Sprint Cars.
8m-Dan Mecum (Marengo, IL) -- '07 Badger Rookie is teamed with last year's Tuesday night hero "Bubba" Altig.
10-George White (Fort Worth, TX) -- The Cowtown Speedway Sprint Car champ tries on a Midget for the first time.
10F-Kelly Ferrell (Chaplin, CT) -- Quad 4 Midget action at Whip City Speedway serves as his Chili Bowl training.
10h-Eric Heydenreich (Bloomsburg, PA) -- The ARDC Midget runner-up.
10m-Mason Moore (Princeton, CA) -- Top-ten in both Civil War Sprint Car points and Silver Dollar Speedway 410-ci points.
10T-T.J. Smith (Fresno, CA) -- Takes one of four Chris Walker entries, all of which are piloted by rookies (others include Kelly Ferrell, Mason Moore and Shane Golobic).
10w-Shane Golobic (Fremont, CA) -- The 16-year-old has already posted feature wins in wingless Sprint Cars and Midgets.
11c-Joe Cleveland (Delphos, KS) -- Made some SRMS Midget starts in the Cattle car.
11x-Ricky Williams (Clinton, OH) -- Bearing the name of a troubled running back and hailing from "Clinton", no scandals yet for this 15-year-old gasser.
13au-Stewart Friesen (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ONT) -- The first Chili Bowl competitor to come from Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Modified ace hopes to adapt to a Midget as quickly as teammate Tim McCreadie was able to.
14h-Harley Hollan (Broken Arrow, OK) -- The Micro ace keeps the tradition of Mercury Outboard power alive at the Chili Bowl.
17T-Justin Grant (Ione, CA) -- The 17-year-old snared the BCRA Midget title.
22wa-Eric Young (Covington, WA) -- A mere 2,010 mile journey from Covington to Tulsa for his first Chili Bowl.
23w-Scott Winters (Floodwood, MN) -- The winged Sprint Car shoe escapes the frozen tundra of Minnesota for his first Midget outing.
25m-Austin Mero (Kingsburg, CA) -- Ready for his first Chili Bowl under the watchful eye of two-time Chili Bowl winner Cory Kruseman.
25x-Derrick Myers (Stonington, IL) -- Up from the POWRi 600-cci Micro ranks.
27c-Doug Nunes (Kingsburg, CA) -- The BCRA Midget Lites titleist.
27d-Kyle Larson (Elk Grove, CA) -- Teamed with Nunes aboard another Blackwell entry, Larson drew raves as an '07 Sprint Car rookie.
28-Nathan Smith (Valencia, CA)
31c-Larry Campbell (Van Buren, AR) -- The Arkansas Modified shoe tries on a Lehmann Midget.
33s-Austin Smith (Chino Hills, CA) -- Wally Pankratz serves as tutor for the 15-year-old, perhaps opening a new line of business for retired racers as "consultants".
33x-Scott Fennell (Littleton, CA) -- Descends the Rockies for a shot at the Bowl.
34 -- Bob Ream, Jr. (Glendale, AZ) -- Leaving the desert in his wake, the past Arizona state Sprint Car champ tries on the Chili Bowl for the first time.
35T-Tyler Robbins (Collinsville, IL) -- Did Donnie Ray Crawford set a trend by jumping from the Micro ranks to finish fifth in last year's Chili Bowl championship main event in his first Midget start? The seventh-ranked POWRi Micro shoe hopes so.
36J-Justin Melton (Flower Mound, TX) -- The Texas racer split time between ASCS Regional action and west coast Midget competition in 2007.
37c-Colby Copeland (Rossville, CA) -- Among Arizona's top Micro shoes in 2007.
39J-Jerry Higbie, Jr. (Slate Hill, NY) -- Teamed with WoO shoes Jason Meyers and Randy Hannagan, the New York DIRT Modified ace bears watching.
41-Gary Scelzi (Fresno, CA) -- A participant in the 2003 Ford Focus Midget Race of Champions at the Chili Bowl, it was just a matter of time before the NHRA star returned for the real thing.
43-Jeff Bland, Jr. (Springville, IN) -- Laid claim to the 2007 Bloomington Speedway non-wing Sprint Car championship as a 19-year-old rookie.
48-Lee Little (Mustang, OK) -- Makes for two from Mustang if you can get Wayne Johnson to admit to Mustang as a hometown.
49e-Brad Sweet (Grass Valley, CA) -- The little fella' with a big right foot gained national notoriety when he sailed over the turn one and two billboards at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, IN, in 2005. Still on the gas with much improved precision, joins the Kasey Kahne stable for his first Chili Bowl.
51c-Brent Camarillo (Ventura, CA) -- The younger of the Camarillo brothers.
51w-Scott Walton (Inola, OK) -- Watch your step. Consider yourself warned.
52d-Derek Hagar (Marion, AR) -- Another up-and-coming talent from the Memphis area.
53-Jack Dover (Springfield, NE) -- Touted at times as "Gary Wright-fast" by some, the lanky 17-year-old straps into a Midget for the first time after several winged Sprint Car wins in 2007.
54-Ryan Smith (Kunkletown, PA) -- The top-ranked rookie on the rugged ARDC Midget trail.
58-Cole Peard (Quincy, CA) -- One of many entries not old enough to remember the show "Quincy, M.D.".
61-Kevin Battles (Collinsville, OK) -- Takes the old Toby Brown Midget for a spin at the Bowl.
63R-Kyle Robbins (New Castle, IN) -- Ranked seventh in non-wing Sprint Car points at Gas City.
64-Brett Miller (Chico, CA) -- The 18-year-old has been making waves in Northern California's winged Sprint Car sea.
71n-Tim Noble (Madison, WI) -- Comes off his Badger Rookie campaign.
73e-Brian Portschy (Plymouth, WI) -- A top-ten runner with the Wisconsin-based MSA winged Sprint Car series.
73F-Andrew Felker (Carl Junction, MO) -- Racked up 30 Micro wins in 2007, including a $10,000 score in Nebraska's Non-Wing Nationals.
73i-Blake Fitzpatrick (West Terre Haute, IN) -- The Kenyon Midget runner-up tried out some wingless Sprint Car stuff in 2007 as well.
75d-Andrew Deal (Caney, KS) -- Another Micro shoe making the move.
78c-David Budres (Beloit, WI)
78J-Nick Wean (Phillipsburg, NJ) -- Eighth in his rookie season with ARDC.
83h-Jonathan Halford (Tulsa, OK) -- The micro grad made a handful of Midget starts to tune up for his first taste of Chili.
87d-Brent Rees (Arvada, CO) -- Ruled Colorado's Micro Sprint ranks.
92-Brandon Wagner (Lafayette, IN)
97k-Caleb Armstrong (New Castle, IN) -- The only rookie among the eight-car fleet of Keith Kunz Motorsports entries.
99J-Robby Josett (Santa Clarita, CA) -- Climbs the ladder from the Ford Focus Midget ranks for his first Chili Bowl.
175-Brian Camarillo (Ventura, CA) -- The older of the Camarillo boys lands in a Cruz Pedregon Midget for his first Chili Bowl.