Hall of Famer Shane Carson Ready for Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Tulsa, OK--Jan. 9, 2007 -- Shane Carson raced in the first ever Chili Bowl Midget Nationals back in 1987, and finished fourth in the A-Feature. This week he will be part of history...
Hall of Famer Shane Carson Ready for Chili Bowl Midget Nationals
Tulsa, OK--Jan. 9, 2007 -- Shane Carson raced in the first ever Chili Bowl Midget Nationals back in 1987, and finished fourth in the A-Feature. This week he will be part of history as nearly 280 drivers take to the track for the 21st annual edition of the famed event at the Tulsa Expo Center.
The native of Yukon, Oklahoma, who was named on Tuesday as a 2007 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, will make the 118 mile trip northeast to the Tulsa Expo Center to compete on Friday in the final qualifying night, seeking one of the coveted 24 starting spots in Saturday night's 50-lap A-Feature event.
Carson, who is the Vice President of Race Operations for the World of Outlaws, has competed in the Chili Bowl nine times, and has raced his way into the A-Feature in four of those events. He remembers fondly the first edition of the event when 48 cars took part, and how much has changed since then.
"The first time we ran in 1987, it was a 40-lap event, and we probably ran 35 laps before we had a yellow," Carson recalled. "The yellow came out and we lined up single file, and we all realized that we could not see into the first turn, because it was so smoky. They've made huge improvements and the smoke and fumes do not affect you anymore."
With three full nights of qualifying action in store this year along with the first ever Tuesday Pre-Qualifying night, Carson knows the level of competition will be at an all- time high. While this will be his first time in a midget since last year's event, he logged laps when time permitted this season with the Sprint Series of Texas, winning a feature in September at Heart O' Texas Speedway. He also won the Masters Classic at the famed Knoxville Raceway, where he is the 1978 Sprint Car Track Champion.
"It has always been an intense event," said Carson, as he prepared for the Chili Bowl.
While there will be plenty of racing on the track this week in Tulsa, there will also be plenty of activities away from the quarter-mile oval, with the traditional trade show that accompanies the event being one of the most prominent. Carson knows firsthand how important the promotion of an event is, both on and off the track. Having been a promoter himself, he gives plenty of credit to the event organizers Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards for their endless work over the years to help the event blossom into what it is today.
"They have built so much around it, that now it is a happening," explained Carson. "When it first started, nobody really knew if it was going to work. The first year it was two days, now it's almost the whole week."
While plenty of people from the racing industry make the trek to Tulsa for the event, it is the over 10,000 fans that will pack the Expo Center each night from Wednesday until Saturday, that makes the event so special. With tickets selling out months in advance, it is truly one of the most anticipated events in any form of racing during the year.
"It's the only race in the United States in January," commented Carson. "It can't rain, sleet, or snow. Nothing can happen to it, it's going to happen. People have gone to races their entire lives and drive to them and have them rain out and it doesn't happen. The Chili Bowl will always happen and that way people can plan their vacations around it."
With only a couple of hot laps sessions before taking to the track, Carson knows the importance of making sure the car has a good balance and set up for the excruciatingly tough 10-lap heat races. While he is used to wheeling a sprint car, Carson knows that many of the same principles apply when he straps into his No. 81 Midget.
"The midgets are a bit shorter, but the power-to-weight ratio is a lot like in a sprint car," he said. "Of course you don't have the wing to lean on, so you have to drive those little things. They're pretty intense. You put that many fast cars in confined quarters like that it can get pretty scary at times."
While having a fast car is paramount to being successful at the Chili Bowl, Carson admits that having luck on your side helps as well, especially when drawing for starting spots in the heat races, where passing points are used to determine the line-ups for the main events each night.
"Luck plays into it quite a bit," said Carson. "You have a draw situation, where you draw for your heat and then there are passing points through the heats. You can draw bad and get into an easy heat, so to speak and pass a lot of cars and that is where the luck plays into it. If you draw the back of a heat and everybody is in it, then you don't pass anyone, and you're in trouble all week."
Carson is not alone at the Chili Bowl, as Brian Carter, the Chief Financial Officer of DIRT MotorSports also is competing in this year's event. Carson offered his friend and co-worker some advice on how to approach the unique event. The pair has raced each other several times this season with the Sprint Series of Texas.
"I've been helping him as much as I can," said Carson. "This will be his first time in a midget. He bought one from Indiana. We're look forward to getting out there and mixing it up with those guys."
The 21st Annual Chili Bowl runs from January 9-13. Along with Carson and Carter numerous World of Outlaws drivers will be in action. In addition, reigning 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series Champion Tim McCeadie, who won the Chili Bowl in 2006, will also be in competing.
The 2007 World of Outlaws season opens on February 9 at Volusia Speedway Park with the 36th Annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented By Mopar Speedshop.