KUNKLETOWN, Pa. (Jan. 9, 2017) – Sprint car driver Ryan Smith has developed a deep friendship with fellow driver and car builder Ryan Linder.
While thousands of miles separate the two – Smith lives in Pennsylvania and Linder in Arizona – the pair have a bond like brothers. That friendship has opened the door for Smith to compete once again in midget racing’s biggest event – the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire, which takes place Tuesday through Saturday inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.
While racing a winged sprint car for Linder in Arizona this past fall, Smith was introduced to Mickey Meyers, who is the crew chief on the midget team owned by NASCAR driver Alex Bowman.
“Ryan made this happen,” Smith said. “He’s friends with Mickey and introduced us and we started taking and the next thing I knew I had a ride for the Chili Bowl. Ryan is a hell of a fabricator. He’s a good guy and has become a very close friend.”
This will mark the fourth Chili Bowl Nationals for Smith and his first since 2013.
“I had some very good rides at the Chili Bowl with Steve Buckwalter and with the Heffner No. 27,” he said. “My second year we missed the transfer spot into Saturday’s A Main by one spot. Last time I was at the Chili Bowl I was the first guy on his lid. Some cars checked up in warm-ups and BAM, I’m upside down. After that we struggled the rest of the week.”
Smith said he, Bowman and Meyers have clicked right away.
“Alex is a great guy,” Smith said. “He eats, sleeps and breathes racing like I do. He’s committed to this deal one thousand percent. Me and Alex and Mickey gelled right away. We are focused on putting this hot rod in the A Main on Saturday.”
Smith, who is one of a record 375 entrants in the event, will qualify Thursday night aboard the Bowman No. 55x Stewart Chassis with Esslinger power.
“Making the A Main on Saturday is the goal,” Smith said. “Alex has the equipment and I have the experience to do it. We just need some luck, to stay out of trouble and keep the wheels under the thing and I need to do my job.
“I can’t thank Alex enough for the opportunity and for Ryan for hooking me up. I plan to go to Ryan’s after the Chili Bowl and help him get ready for the 2017 season.”
Smith also wants to thank the sponsors on the No. 55x midget – Knuppenstein Speed Lab, CnB Chubby, U.S. Autocure and Toy State.