Chili Bowl: Pre-race facts and pit notes

Drake sits out: Jay Drake will not defend his title at the 2002 Chili Bowl, but will serve as the Grand Marshal. Drake was injured in a crash in a midget race at Terre Haute on Oct. 20. Drake is still recovering from the injuries and will race...

Drake sits out: Jay Drake will not defend his title at the 2002 Chili Bowl, but will serve as the Grand Marshal. Drake was injured in a crash in a midget race at Terre Haute on Oct. 20. Drake is still recovering from the injuries and will race later in 2002. Drake finished sixth in the USAC National Midget standings and second in the race for the USAC Sprint Car title. Richard ``The Gasman'' Griffin will drive the Keith Kunz Motorsports Midget this week.

Long Streak: Sammy Swindell has the most victories in the history of the Chili Bowl, but Swindell is tied with two other drivers for the longest streak of consecutive ``A'' Mains started. Swindell started seven straight Chili Bowl features from 1987-1993, while Ron Shuman and Kevin Doty also started seven straight. Shuman started seven consecutive from 1991-1997, and Doty from 1990-1996.

Swindell, though, has the longest current streak of features started at six. He has started every ``A'' Main since 1996, winning twice and finishing outside the top 10 only once. Tracy Hines is second on the list, starting five straight ``A'' Mains, dating back to the 1997 event.

Engine/Chassis note: There are around 170 cars pre-entered for the Chili Bowl and there is no shortage of different chassis and engine manufacturers.

The most popular chassis is the Stealth, with at least 70 cars listing it as their chassis of choice. Stealth was one of 33 different chassis manufacturers listed. Other prominent chassis builders represented are Ellis, Beast, Maxim, Eagle, TCR, Twister and Hawk.

As far as engines, the most popular is Gaerte. At least 40 drivers listed Gaerte as their engine of choice. Other names well represented are Esslinger, Fontana, Brayton, Mopar, Pink and the Scat V-4. In all drivers listed 40 different types of engines.

All these numbers are unofficial as more names will be added to the list and some may change.

Strong charge: Robert Marfia returns to the Chili Bowl in 2002 after an impressive run in 2001. Marfia did not make the ``A'' Main, but he quietly moved from an F Feature to be in contention for a transfer spot in the ``C'' Main at last year's event. Marfia started Saturday night in the same ``F'' feature as Smoke Johnson (aka. Tony Stewart) and finished second. He went on to finish second in his ``E'' Main, fourth in a ``D'' Main. In the ``C'' Main he was in contention for a transfer spot when he was shuffled back late in the race and finished 16th.

Who says you need an open wheel background?: Making his first appearance in the Chili Bowl this year is one of Dirt Late Model racing's biggest stars -- Scott Bloomquist. Bloomquist is a four-time champion of the UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series and just this year won the World 100, Late Model racing's most prestigious race, for the first time in nearly 10 years. Drivers with stock car backgrounds are not unprecedented at the Chili Bowl, though. Among the drivers, who make their living racing stock cars or modifieds that have competed include DIRT Modified hot shoe Brett Hearn and Late Model star Donnie Moran, who won the Eldora Million this past year.

Quick hits

There have been 12 different winners in the 15-year history of the Chili Bowl. Sammy Swindell is the only repeat winner with four victories in 1989, 92, 96 and 98.

Six different winners of the Chili Bowl are entered in this year's event. Cory Kruseman (2000), Dan Boorse (1999), Sammy Swindell, Donnie Beechler (95), Andy Hillenburg (1994) and John Heydenreich (1990).

Twenty-two states are represented in this year's Chili Bowl. The largest contingent comes from Indiana, with Illinois close behind.

This year's event is the first-time the Chili Bowl will feature three days of preliminary racing.

Last year's record number of entries forced officials to use time trials to determine lineups. This year the passing points system will return. The system is similar to the one used by the American Sprint Car Series, where drivers draw for heat race positions and earn their way into each night's preliminary feature by earning points during the heat races.

Since 1987, 126 different drivers have started Saturday's ``A'' Main.

Sammy Swindell has started 13 of the 15 Chili Bowl Saturday main events. Kevin Doty has started 12.

All three U.S. Auto Club champions, along with the champions of the Pennzoil World of Outlaws, SCRA and American Sprint Car Series are on this year's entry list. Dave Darland (USAC National Midget Series), J.J. Yeley (USAC Sprints), Paul White (USAC Silver Bullet Series), Danny Lasoski (Outlaws) and Zach Chappell (ASCS) and Cory Kruseman (SCRA).

All three recipients of the National Sprint Car Polls Driver of the Year Awards are on this year's entry list. SCRA champion Cory Kruseman (Non-Wing Driver of the Year); Outlaw champion Danny Lasoski (410 Driver of the Year) and ASCS Champion Zach Chappell (360 Driver of the Year).

Tracy Hines is entered in this year's event. Hines was the National Midget Driver of the Year in 2001, scoring 1,287 points to win the award. Hines has four starts in the Chili Bowl ``A'' Main, with his best finish a fifth in 2000. Hines, of Greenfield, Ind., will drive for Wilke PAK Motorsports.

Andy Hillenburg returns to the Chili Bowl after a two-year hiatus. Hillenburg, of nearby Broken Arrow, Okla., won the Chili Bowl in 1994. Hillenburg has started the main event in six Chili Bowl and has four top-five finishes. Hillenburg finished sixth in this year's Pennzoil World of Outlaw points standings. Hillenburg will drive a Stealth/Gaerte sponsored by Alan Christner Trucking.

P.J. Chesson is part of another stellar rookie class at the Chili Bowl. According the Chili Bowl rookie expert, Don Hubbard, there are more than 50 rookies entered in this year's event. Chesson won the Historical Big One at Eldora in August and will drive an Eagle/Gaerte for Harry Conklin this week.

Jason Leffler returns to the Chili Bowl after a season driving for Chip Ganassi on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit in 2001. Leffler will drive in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2002, taking over for Scott Riggs in the Team ASE Dodge Ram. Jason Leffler will drive a Beast/Mopar for Dino Tomassi.

Bobby East, the 16-year old son of noted chassis builder Bob East, will compete in his first Chili Bowl. East won a preliminary night at the indoor midget event at Fort Wayne, Ind., two weeks ago. East was 11th in the USAC national midget standings with three victories in 2001

Three-time IMCA National Sprint Car champion Johnny Miller will race in his first Chili Bowl this year. Miller, of Burleson, Texas, has raced Winged Modifieds and Sprint Cars in Texas for nearly 20 years. Miller has earned the nickname ``Baja'' for his driving style on the bullrings of Texas. Miller will drive a Beast/Braxton owned by Gene Burdick.

Donnie Beechler returns to the Chili Bowl after finishing 15th in the Indy Racing League points standings in 2001. Beecher, the 1995 Chili Bowl champion, also drove for A.J. Foyt in the Indy 500. Beechler will drive a Team Purple Stealth/Gaerte owned by Chad Anderson and Scott Fernandez.

Cory Kruseman returns after spending last winter in New Zealand racing. Kruseman had a successful season in 2001 winning the SCRA championship and being named the Non-winged Sprint Car Driver of the Year. Kruseman will drive for Andy Bondio, the same owner he had when he won in 2000.

USAC Silver Bullet champion Paul White comes to the Chili Bowl driving an Ellis/Pontiac owned by David Watkins. White won his first Silver Bullet title after taking three victories, including the season opener at Phoenix International Raceway last March. White plans to defend his title in 2002, driving for Arlington car owner Paul Cook.

Chassis manufacturers represented at this year's Chili Bowl: Auto Research, Barnett, Beaberbuilt, Beast, Bishop Mach 1, Bondio, Buzzard, Canaday, Challenger, Drinan, Eagle, Edmonds, Ellis, Fab-Tech, Genneton, Grant King, Halarr, Hawk, Jack Rich, Kenyon, Lightning, Mal-1, Maxim, Phantom, Predator, Robinson, SMS, Stealth, Stewart, TCR, Twister, Zero Motorsports,

Engine builders and manufacturers represented at this year's Chili Bowl: Arias, Autocraft, Baue, Barnes, Brayton, Braxton, Buick, Camfield, Cesco, Chevy, Chuck Schneider, Cindy Lou V-6, Esslinger, Fontana ,Ford, Gaerte, Garcia , Jay Ingalls, Mach Development, Minarik, Mopar, Pink, Pontiac, Racetek, Reed, RPM, Scat V-4, Snyder, Specialty, Subaru, Thurston V-4, Quad-4, Van Dyne, VW, Wesmar, Yamaha, Yates Ford,

States represented at this year's Chili Bowl: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin.

Rookie note: This year's Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year will receive a $1,000 bonus from Ark Wrecking in Tulsa.

Record purse: Drivers will be racing for more than $100,000 in prize money and contingencies this year. This is the largest payout in the history of the Chili Bowl.

Other contingencies: WN Crouch of Tulsa will give $1,000 to the driver that passes the most cars that does not make Saturday's A Main.

Weld Racing will have the Halfway Challenge, offering $1,000 to the driver that leads lap 25 of Saturday's 50-lap A Main. The second place driver will receive $300 and third place $200.

-len ashburn-

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Donnie Beechler , Andy Hillenburg , Scott Bloomquist , Donnie Moran , Scott Riggs , Johnny Miller , Danny Lasoski , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Sammy Swindell , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Bobby East , John Heydenreich , Paul White , P.J. Chesson , Robert Marfia , David Watkins , A.J. Foyt