TJ’s Thursday Chili Bowl Predictions…

Sammy Swindell Alan Holland Photo
Sammy Swindell Alan Holland Photo

By T.J. Buffenbarger, Alan Holland Photo

With Thursday upon us I scoured the list of Chili Bowl participants and have come up with my Thursday picks for favorites, wouldnโ€™t surprise me, and dark horse categories. Wednesday was not as fruitful as Tuesday for my favorite picks, but so far everyone we have mentioned in the column has done relatively well at the Chili Bowl.

I have been asked about how I came up categories and picks for the Chili Bowl Blogs. The reasoning is the top three drivers transfer from the preliminary features to Saturdayโ€™s A-Main. Talking about three drivers though does not make for a very long blog, therefore I came up with the โ€œwouldnโ€™t surprise me ifโ€ category for drivers that I feel should be picked, but something told me not to put them in the favorites category. The dark horse category is self explanatory.

One of my friends that I discuss the picks with before posting has more foresight to pick Donnie Ray Crawford for the win on Wednesday, but I left him off of my list more for the infrequent starts of Jon Cantorโ€™s midget car. I can only imagine how loud the crowd was at the Quick Trip Center when Crawford became the first hometown hero to win a preliminary night.

When it comes right down to it the picks are about 90% gut feeling from years of watching cars go โ€˜round and โ€˜round and 10% reasoning I believe works at the Chili Bowl. With that out of the way here are my picks for Thursday.

My picks for favorites to transfer into Saturdayโ€™s feature includeโ€ฆ.

โ€ฆSammy Swindell to transfer and win Thursdayโ€™s preliminary feature. Swindell is coming off one of his best seasons in recent years outdoors and was fast in Tuesdayโ€™s Race of Champions. Look for Sammy to take bows atop the victory podium.

โ€ฆ.Steve Buckwalter to open eyes of some observers he has not already impressed during this yearโ€™s Chili Bowl. The Indiana Midget Week winner at Gas City is poised to make a huge splash this year in Tulsa. All one has to do is talk to Buckwalter for a short time to realize what kind of racer he is. A stellar Buckwalter performance could also help boast beer sales from Pennsylvania posse fans celebrating an outstanding Buckwalter performance.

โ€ฆ.Casey Shuman to back up his indoor win in DuQuoin this winter with the Loyet super team to punch his ticket directly to Saturdayโ€™s feature. Good luck charms, karma, and statistics point towards Shuman making the transfer on Saturday. Swindellโ€™s presence is keeping me from picking โ€œlilโ€™Shuโ€ from a preliminary feature victory.

It wouldnโ€™t surprise me ifโ€ฆ
โ€ฆJerry Coons, Jr. made it up into a transfer spot. While Coons has worked well with Scott Benic and his team in other arenas, Iโ€™m not sure if it will lead to a direct transfer into Saturdayโ€™s A-Main. Look for a strong finish outside of the top three for Coons.
โ€ฆTracy Hines turns in another stellar Chili Bowl performance. Hines appearance in the โ€œwouldnโ€™t surprise meโ€ category has more to do with others on his preliminary night versus his ability. Just like Coons, look for Hines to run well enough to land an upper main position for Saturday.
โ€ฆGarrett Hansen is in one of Andy Bondioโ€™s creations. Bondioโ€™s cars are a paradox for my Chili Bowl picks due to their fragile nature at times. Hansen is a gaser and should be able to put Bondioโ€™s car in good position.

The drivers Iโ€™m keeping in the dark horse stable includeโ€ฆ.

โ€ฆโ€Showtimeโ€ Danny Sheridan has all of the tools that make for a nice story at the Chili Bowl. Weโ€™ve seen some west coast gassers hook up with the right team for a one-off ride at the Bowl and perform well. Sherdian could be the 2011 edition of that story.

โ€ฆIโ€™ve always been a strong believer in Shane Hollingsworthโ€™s midget car chops. Hollingsworth has progressed from young upstart, college racer, and now working man with formidable talent. Focusing more on sprint car racing and not being part of his family owned team this time bumps him down to our dark horse category.

โ€ฆJason Leffler runs taxi cabs for his day job, and gets fairly infrequent midget car starts. Leffler has actually owned a Chili Bowl winning entry with Damion Gardner and has run well in the past. I tend to drop stock car drop-ins to dark horse status just from not having as many recent laps in a midget car as the other drivers. Leffler tends to overcome that disadvantage and is usually up to speed. Combine that with driving for Kasey Kahne racing and look for Leffer to slide up towards the front late in the going on Thursday.