Chili Bowl: Saturday finale report 2002-01-12

Tulsa, OK (January 12) - Tony Stewart said Saturday night he will put his Chili Bowl Winner's Trophy, a bronzed replica of the Driller outside the indoor Tulsa Expo Raceway, on his shelf at home next to his Dale Earnhardt helmet. That is what ...

Tulsa, OK (January 12) - Tony Stewart said Saturday night he will put his Chili Bowl Winner's Trophy, a bronzed replica of the Driller outside the indoor Tulsa Expo Raceway, on his shelf at home next to his Dale Earnhardt helmet. That is what winning Saturday night's 50-lap championship main event at the 16th Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals meant to one of Winston Cup racing's top stars.

Stewart won a race-long battle with Kevin Doty as the two swapped the lead six times over the race's final 16 laps with Stewart taking the lead for good on Lap 49. Stewart pocketed more than $22,000 for his efforts, which included the $10,000 winner's share for the purse, more than $1,000 in lap bonus money and an $11,000 bonus for winning with a Mopar engine.

Doty finished second, with Cory Kruseman third, Critter Malone fourth and Dave Darland fifth.

But it was the chance for Stewart to return to his open-wheel roots and race against guys he raced against prior to his Winston Cup career that helped make this victory special.

"I miss racing with these guys 'cause it's fun," Stewart said. "This style of racing is fun because you come here and unload your car and you race. You go out have dinner together and drag down the road to the next place and do it all over again next week. There is no politics. You didn't once here anybody (Saturday) complaining about his body style had more downforce and less drag than anybody else. That's why it's fun. You don't hear anybody complain about anything, you just go race."

And Stewart did, along with the rest of the 24-car field in the main event in what some were saying was one of the most exciting Chili Bowl race's ever. But early in the race it looked Tracy Hines was going to drive his Wilke Pak entry to a victory by taking the lead from his teammate, Doty, on the first lap from outside the front row. Hines led the first 19 laps, until his car finally stopped in Turn 1. Hines did not restart because he had a fuel pump drive break.

After a restart on Lap 22, Doty took over the point and used the middle and high side of the race track to stay in front of Critter Malone, Stewart, Cory Kruseman and Jeremy Sherman.

Malone stayed in second behind Doty until Lap 31 with Stewart passing him one lap later. Stewart stayed in that position, running the low side of the race track while Doty stayed in the middle.

Stewart took the lead for the first time on Lap 34, but on Lap 37, Doty took it back coming out of Turn 4. That was two of the six lead changes by the two drivers over the next 16 laps.

As the race was winding down, Stewart led until Lap 42 when Doty took over by passing Stewart exiting Turn 4 where Doty was the strongest. Stewart took over on Lap 47, but Doty took it back one lap later. And at the same time, Kruseman was trying to find a place to pass Stewart.

But on Lap 49, Stewart stayed on the inside while the middle part of the race track where Doty was beginning to wear and Stewart took over the lead.

"I probably should have took it down low but after I got by (Stewart) but I figured (the middle) was the place to be," said Doty after his best Chili Bowl finish. "Just after that yellow the middle there where I was running just went away on me and Tony got a little smoother down there, slowed down a little bit and went faster. The race track really came to us in the middle and kind of went away in the end."

Kruseman, who won Friday night's preliminary, was right on Stewart's back bumper for the last part of the race but never found a chance to pass Stewart, as well as Critter Malone.

"I didn't want to leave a lane open," Stewart said. "I saw where (Doty) was at and I wasn't about to take a chance on moving up. Not only to stay ahead of (Doty) but Cory was going to get by me too. It was a mental game more than anything and staying patient, really forcing myself to stay down on the bottom where I'd been all night. That's the hardest race I'd ever have to win on the bottom like that."

Kasey Kahne finished sixth, with Danny Lasoski coming from 16th to seventh, Greg Luecker eighth, Tony Elliott ninth and J.J. Yeley drove from 23rd to 10th. Yeley earned the Rich Vogler hard charger award for his run, while Davey Ray, who finished 11th, was named the Chili Bowl's Top Rookie. Ray received a $1,000 from Ark Wrecking in Tulsa.

Notes and News

Several special awards and presentations were part of an emotional opening ceremonies on Saturday night. Along with the traditional Parade of States, Chastity Crawford sang God Bless America and Kenny Koelch performed the National Anthem on his trumpet.

Tracy Hines was presented with the National Midget Driver of the Year Award, and the more than 20 2001 champions were also recognized. Jay Drake, the 2001 champion of the Chili Bowl, was awarded the Grand Marshal trophy and Kevin Greven, who works for sponsor O'Reilly Auto Parts, was presented an award by promoters Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards.

B Main action: When the two B Mains started, the race track was drying out in the middle with a groove on the top along a short berm and one on the bottom. In the first B main, Jerry Coons Jr. endured six caution periods, including three on Lap 19, to lead all 20 laps of the race. Richard Griffin challenged Coons early in the race, but finished behind Coons in second as most of the drivers were running on the top part of the race track. Tony Elliott finished third, with Matt Westfall fourth, Troy Rutherford ffith and J.J. Yeley passing Wally Pankratz on the last lap for the sixth and final transfer spot.

In the second B Main, Dan Boorse followed the same plan as Coons by running the top to lead all the way in the 20-lap race. Danny Lasoski challenged Boorse for the lead on a Lap 12 restart, but Boorse held off Lasoski and pulled away for the victory. Lasoski finished second, with A.J. Fike third, Steve Knepper fourth and Shane Hollingsworth fifth. Davey Ray made contact with 1S late in the race, but was able to hold on for the sixth spot.

Ronnie Day, who started the night in the second D Main, finished 10th earning him an extra $1,000 from W.N. Couch Construction for passing the most cars on Saturday and not making the 50-lap Championship Main event. Day won the second D main from the pole and finished fourth in the second C Main, passing 21 cars on the way to winning the award.

C Main action: Dan Lehmann started on the pole and led all 15 laps of the first C Main, with Bryan Stanfill taking second over Keith Rauch, as Ricky Logan finished fourth and P.J. Chesson fifth. Chesson was followed by 1995 Chili Bowl champion Donnie Beechler in sixth, Bud Kaeding in seventh and 2001 USAC Silver Bullet Champion Paul White eighth.

Another strong field in the second C Main produced probably the best race of the night. Sammy Swindell led the first 12 laps, but Jack Hewitt made his way through the field from the 15th spot. Hewitt, running the cushion, began to challenge Swindell, who was running low, with less than five laps left. On Lap 13, Hewitt drove around Swindell to take the lead at the end of Lap 13 and led the rest of way. Joe Boyles finished third, with Ronnie Day fourth and Matthew Neely taking the fifth and final transfer spot to the B Main.

D Main action: Tony Rossi took the lead from pole starter Kenny Brown on Lap four and led the rest of the way in the 12-lap first D Main. Randy Koch took the third and final transfer spot. Michael Lewis finishsed fourth after starting Saturday in the first F Main.

Ronnie Day jumped out to the lead from the pole and led all 12 laps in the second D Main. Matthew Rossi was second and Clay Klepper finished in the third and final transfer spot.

E Main action: In a race that featured three lead changes, Rex Norris, III took the lead from Jan Howard on the fifth lap and leads the rest of the way in the 10-lap first E Main. Howard finishes second, with Michael Lewis driving from 13th to finish in third and Nick Lundgreen fourth.

Tommy Spencer drove to an easy victory after starting outside the front row, leading all 10 laps and winning by almost half a track. Jeremy Farmer finished second and Chris Wagner was third, with Tyce Carlson fourth. Anne Coppell, the driver for the Blonde Squad, who was in contention for a transfer spot midway through the race, jumped the curb on the last lap and finished 15th.

F Main action: Michael Lewis took the lead from Shain Matthews on the fifth lap and led the rest of the way in the 10-lap first F Main. Matthews finished second, pole starter Mike Miller third and Johnny Miller fourth. John Heydenreich, the 1990, was running in fourth until he spun to a stop in Turn 2, taking him out of contention.

In the second F Main, Bill Baue took the lead on the first lap from the pole and led all the way in the 10-lap race. Mike Hess took second, with Jamie Ferrell third and Ron Kuhn in third. Robert Marfia, starting in a F Main for the second consecutive year, was in contention for a transfer spot, but stops in the third turn on Lap 7.

G Main action: Bobby Smith drove from third to first in the first lap and took the win in the first 10-lap G Main. Fred Schell finished second, Jeff McCloud third and David Camfield, Sr. in the fourth and final transfer spot.

In the second G Main, six of the scheduled 11 drivers did not start the race. Jon Foster won by taking the lead from Jamie Ferrell after Ferrell spun in Turn 2. Kevin Arnold was third and Toby Alfrey fourth.

-len ashburn-

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Series Midget
Drivers Tony Stewart , Donnie Beechler , Danny Lasoski , Kasey Kahne , Tyce Carlson , Michael Lewis , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Bud Kaeding , Tony Elliott , Sammy Swindell , Cory Kruseman , Richard Griffin , Mike Miller , John Heydenreich , Matt Westfall , A.J. Fike , Paul White , Davey Ray , Wally Pankratz , P.J. Chesson , Nick Lundgreen , Robert Marfia , Clay Klepper , Kenny Brown , Steve Knepper , Shane Hollingsworth , Bryan Stanfill , Joe Boyles , Troy Rutherford , David Camfield , Jerry Coons Jr.