Four-time winner looks to recapture the Golden Driller on Saturday in Tulsa.
TULSA – If Kevin Swindell hopes to reclaim the Golden Driller at the 2015 Chili Bowl Nationals, the four-time champion proved he was more than capable on Thursday night.
After an airbox came loose in the No. 39 Midget during his heat race, Swindell was sent to the rear of the field for igniting a caution. Although he was swept up in a 10-car crash in the second lap and forced to change a tire, Swindell rebounded from 24th to a podium finish behind winner Jerry Coons Jr., and Andrew Deal.
“I had the seas part a couple of times to get a few of them and I guess I had to really work past (Ryan) Bernal at the end,” Swindell said following the feature.
A proven record
Swindell’s performance did not come as a shock for the Chili Bowl crowd, who first watched his father Sammy win the event a record five times in 21 appearances.
The elder Swindell shares the record for most preliminary night feature wins since 1987 with seven along with Cory Kruseman.
You can never count Kevin Swindell out when you can win four in a row as tough as this competition is.
Emmett Hahn, Chili Bowl Nationals co-founder
Event co-founder Emmett Hahn referred to the family’s success as a Chili Bowl “dynasty’. Hahn told Motorsport.com, “You can never count Kevin Swindell out when you can win four in a row as tough as this competition is.”
Not surprisingly, Tulsa Expo Raceway holds many fond memories for the 25-year-old from Bartlett, Tennessee.
To come here and run midgets together once a year and be able to have the success that we’ve had here together, is pretty special for our family and all the guys that put in all the effort to get us here...
“It’s a place where I spent a lot of time growing up and watching a lot of races here and watched a lot of videos growing up,” Swindell said. “It’s always been some place that’s so cool – and Dad has always kind of been ‘the guy’ here.
"In the last few years, I’ve kind of taken that title away from him a little bit – which he doesn’t love too much. But it’s been fun and it’s pretty much the only thing we get to do together with him going racing one way and me going racing another. We don’t get to race together a lot.
“But to come here and run midgets together once a year and be able to have the success that we’ve had here together, is pretty special for our family and all the guys that put in all the effort to get us here – most who are volunteers that show up and help because they are friends of ours. It’s a big family effort and we have a lot of fun doing it.”
Just like the Unser’s at Indy or the Petty’s and Earnhardt at Daytona, the Swindell’s are synonymous with the Chili Bowl. Kevin says the experience has created a tremendous bond between father and son.
“We’ve won nine of 27 which is pretty cool,” Swindell said. “There’s not a lot of big events that you can look at that have a record like that and to have that under one owner banner (Swindell Motorsports) and to have only a few guys win this thing more than once, for us to have won this thing as many times as we have including five in the six last years means a lot.”
Sammy Swindell hoisted his fifth Golden Driller trophy in 2009 followed by four consecutive victories by Kevin. The streak was upset by Bryan Clauson last year.
The right stuff
The younger Swindell credits a combination of mental toughness and instinct for being able to persevere on the quarter-mile clay oval.
“I’ve always been good at the mental side and being able to pick where I needed to go and knowing where other guys might go and putting myself in the right situation,” Swindell said. “That definitely helps. And in a spot like this where you don’t have a lot of laps and a lot of people to get by it comes down to making the right decision and being able to put the cars in those spots when you need to.
“This is the one time of the year where I really get to show up in high quality stuff and show what I’m able to do. This race used to be able to get you a big ride in NASCAR – and now it’s not so much but we keep trying. This is like my coming out party every year to remind people I’m capable of doing this.”
Swindell has not abandoned his aspiration to compete in NASCAR full-time. He has limited starts in the Xfinity Series but still posted three top 10 finishes in 30 starts over five seasons. Swindell’s greatest success came in 2010 when he ran one full season in the K&N Pro Series and posted one top five, four top 10s and two poles in 10 starts.
Certainly, if he can outlast a record field of 330 racers in the Super Bowl of midget racing it would be quite the complement to his resume.
“It’s basically the highest form of racing in the U.S., so obviously, that’s where you want to be if you want to beat the best,” Swindell said. “You keep kind of chasing that dream and hoping. I love Sprint Car racing. If it comes to racing that full-time, I’ll be fine with that. But I’m going to keep trying to reach NASCAR and hopefully it will catch on.
“If not, maybe someone who likes me a lot will win the lottery and help me get the rest of the way there.”
Watch tonight’s Vacuworx Qualifying races live at www.racingboys.com