Chasing the Golden Driller Tony Stewart Racing & Chevrolet Gear Up to Defend Chili Bowl Bragging Rights on HBO Pay-Per-View INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 7, 2008) -- For Tony Stewart Racing (TSR), the annual journey to Tulsa, Okla., for the biggest...
Chasing the Golden Driller Tony Stewart Racing & Chevrolet Gear Up to Defend Chili Bowl Bragging Rights on HBO Pay-Per-View
INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 7, 2008) -- For Tony Stewart Racing (TSR), the annual journey to Tulsa, Okla., for the biggest Midget race of the year has always been about new beginnings. In 2007, team owner Tony Stewart made the decision to bring his own operation to the Tulsa Expo Center for the first time in event history. Newly signed with Chevrolet as a primary sponsor and engine provider, TSR didn't disappoint as Stewart claimed the brand's first-ever Golden Driller trophy.
This year's 22nd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, which kicks off Tuesday inside the typically fan-packed confines of the Tulsa Expo Center, will also mark another milestone for TSR. Touted as a team to watch, Stewart, along with Levi Jones, Tracy Hines and Josh Richards, will take to the quarter-mile, dirt oval in the hopes of earning a second straight victory, this time on the first-ever HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast of the event.
Stewart has two Golden Drillers in his collection after Chili Bowl victories in 2002 and 2007. The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will lead the TSR team into this week's event, which concludes Saturday, driving a special-edition No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All/Spike entry. This year's edition of the race will see Stewart carry a unique florescent-yellow paint scheme that can only be described as breathtaking.
Jones drives the No. 20J/TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All entry into the event riding the momentum of his second career USAC National Sprint Car Series championship. The veteran driver also won his first USAC National Midget Car Series event in 2007 and will look to add another at this week's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. Jones finished 18th in the second B-main in the 2007 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals finale last January. He posted Chevrolet's first Midget racing score in his preliminary night on Jan. 7, 2007, as he won a B-Main event.
Hines, making his first dirt-track appearance since an off-road motorcycle accident sidelined him in April of 2007, will return to the seat of the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All machine this week. The 2005 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals winner made his return to racing on Nov. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway after recovering from extensive lower-extremity injuries. In last year's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals A-main, Hines battled the flu to finish 10th.
Late Model ace Richards is set to make his third career Chili Bowl Midget Nationals appearance this week, as he'll again join the TSR team behind the wheel of the No. 20J/TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All entry. Richards wrapped up the 2007 event with a 10th-place finish in the first G-main during the final night of racing. The 2005 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Rookie of the Year will look to make his first career Chili Bowl Midget Nationals A-main start.
The TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All team, featuring Stewart, Jones, Hines and Richards, represents one of the notable power-teams entered in this year's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. Combined, the formidable foursome has earned three Chili Bowl Midget Nationals titles, two NASCAR championships, one Indy Racing League (IRL) championship and eight USAC National Series titles. Defending Chili Bowl Midget Nationals champion Stewart will seek his third "Golden Driller" trophy this week.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All/Spike
Leading a team of talented drivers, do you think that Tony Stewart Racing will be able to put four cars in Saturday night's A-main finale?
"I think it's very feasible that we could get four cars in the A-Main. Levi Jones and Tracy Hines -- they're guys that should be in every A-Main every week. And Josh Richards, he's one of the brightest young stars, if not the brightest young star, in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Every year that he runs a Midget, he keeps getting better and better, too. I'm probably the weakest link of the group, and got lucky and won it last year, which was a great deal for both us and Chevrolet, who had just come on board. I expect all three of those guys to be in the A-Main and, hopefully, I'll make it a fourth."
Why are your two Chili Bowl Midget Nationals victories some of the highlights of your career?
"It's a race among the best of the best. It's not so much that it's a particular style of car that we're running. Anytime that you go to one venue and you've got 280-plus entrants and you only take 24 cars to the A-main on Saturday night, it means you're getting the best in the country. Not only from Midget racing, but you've got the best from the USAC National division, the Badger Series, the USAC Western States, the Rocky Mountain Racing Association -- there are so many great Midget organizations -- ARDC up in the Northeast. You've got so many great champions from those divisions, not to mention the USAC Sprint Car and Silver Crown and World of Outlaws and the USAC CRA division. You've got the best of the best in Midget and Sprint Car racing from different organizations from across the country, basically. They all come to one place on the same weekend to see who's the best. To see Midget and Sprint Car and winged Sprint Car drivers from different divisions in different sanctioning bodies across the country come together, the Chili Bowl is the only place you're going to see them all come together in one night to see who is the best. It makes a win in the Chili Bowl that much more prestigious."
What makes this race so tough?
"It's just tough. It doesn't matter what size the track is. It can be a one-mile track or it can be a fifth-mile track. You put that many talented guys on a race track and you're going to have a tough go of it. The Chili Bowl can be a tough track to get around, but at the same time, it's the competition there that makes it so tough."
Levi Jones, driver of the No. 20J TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All/Spike
You earned your first career victory in USAC National Midget Series competition last season. Does that help to boost your confidence heading into this year's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals?
"Getting that first win in a different type of car is always a confidence booster, and when we won with the dirt Midget last season, I was pretty excited. We really learned a lot last year with the Midgets and it began to show in the second half of the season. When we went to the Belleville Midget Nationals, we were good. We'd figured out what changes to make to the cars and it was a lot of fun. We also ran well at Eldora Speedway in the Chevy Weekend. We just ran into some tire trouble. It's always good to end a season on a good note and we definitely were moving in the right direction with our dirt program. I'm looking forward to the Chili Bowl and working to build on our successes."
With the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals set to be broadcast live on HBO Pay-Per-View, are you excited about the continued progress of the event?
"When we found out that the event was going to be broadcast on HBO, we were really excited about having an opportunity to showcase our sport to such a diverse audience. Emmett Hahn and the Motorsports Management Entertainment group realize the importance of television and getting our sport in front of another group of potential fans. The pay-per-view broadcast is a great way to promote open-wheel racing and hopefully we'll come away from the event with a new audience."
What makes the Chili Bowl such a unique event?
"With all of the different types of racing represented at the Chili Bowl, it's a lot of fun to be a part of this event. It seems like everyone and anyone in racing attends or competes in this event and the atmosphere just really makes it a lot of fun. You race in your preliminary night and you know you're going to race Saturday night, but there's a lot that goes on in-between. It's also nice to get to spend a week with our sponsors and Tony (Stewart, team owner) and compete against him all week long. The event presents a really fun environment and gives us an opportunity to get our season started again."
Josh Richards, driver of the No. 20R TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All/Spike
With the experience of two Chili Bowl Midget National events to your credit, are you more relaxed heading into this year's race?
"I am a lot more relaxed than I have been in years past. I know what to expect as the week progresses. Our performance wasn't as good as we'd hoped for last year but I've worked to make sure I'm as ready as possible for this year's race. I've spent a lot of time watching tapes of past Chili Bowl events and I learned quite a bit from studying that material. I know we're going to have a good car again this year and I think we're going to have a good chance to do very well this week."
Are you looking forward to being part of the Tony Stewart Racing/Chevrolet team once again this year?
"I'm really excited about competing as part of TSR again. Competing with a team that has several talented drivers and great cars is really a great opportunity for me. I'm very thankful that Tony (Stewart, team owner) asked me to be a part of his team again this year. I really enjoyed working with everyone from Chevrolet and TSR last year and I'm looking forward to this week's race."
Now that you've had a chance to experience the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals several years in a row, what part of the event do you look forward to the most?
"The Chili Bowl event as a whole is just really cool. When you step back and look at what takes place inside the building in the middle of winter, it's really an awesome event. Over 250 race cars, transporters lined up the length of the building, a race track that they build specifically for this event -- it's just a huge event that really takes on a life of its own. The excitement in the atmosphere is also awesome. You know that you're part of something really cool when you're at the Chili Bowl."
Tracy Hines, driver of the No. 21 TSR/Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops/Armor All/Spike
The topics of your readiness and recovery from injury have come up a lot in the past few weeks. How do you feel about your level of preparation for this week's Chili Bowl Midget Nationals?
"It's time for me to get back in the car and drive. This is what I do and I'm ready to get back to it. Since getting back into the Midget at Phoenix, I've been working very hard in therapy each day at St. Vincent Sports Performance. Not only have we been focusing on the therapy aspect of my recovery, but they've really upped my cardio workouts and strength training. With that said, I feel that I am probably as physically ready for the start of a season as I have been in many years. In terms of how my knee feels, when I bend it, I do feel some aches. There have been some questions as to what, if anything, a flip or hard hit on my knee would produce. It's very sound in relation to any bouncing around inside the car. You can bang on it and I don't have any pain. I don't think it's going to affect it at all in terms of the physical abuse your body takes when you're racing at speed. All in all, I feel very good and I'm looking forward to getting back in the dirt car."
Having won the 2005 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, you know what it takes to win in Tulsa. What's your strategy as you head into this week's race?
"This race is about 75 percent luck and 25 percent other variables. Our strategy consists of being on our toes and anticipating that anything can happen. At the Chili Bowl, the fastest car doesn't necessarily get the win. Every position is important. Ideally, you want to start in the back of your heat race and pass a lot of cars. You want to earn as many passing points as possible with the way the event is formatted. Having a lot of luck fall your way is a good thing at the Chili Bowl and I'm confident we're going to be ready for anything that we might encounter."
Do you think that Tony Stewart Racing has a good chance of bringing the Golden Driller back to Indiana once again this year?
"I really think we do. We've got four good cars and two former event winners in the mix and that's going to be a big help. Having some experience is a benefit in this situation. We'll just have to see if we can have some luck fall our way this week."