Local Contingent Featured in Chili Bowl Press Conference!

2010 Chili Bowl

By Lonnie Wheatley

TULSA, Okla. (January 5, 2012) – Several local drivers hoping to keep the Golden Driller in the host state were featured as the initial press conference for local media took place at the QuikTrip Center on Thursday afternoon.

With the 26th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals set to take place next week, January 10-14 at the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway following a Monday practice, Sooner State contenders Jonathan Beason, Donnie Ray Crawford and Blake Hahn visited with Tulsa media about the prestigious event.

Beason ranked as the top-finishing Oklahoma driver last January with a fourth-place finish behind Kevin Swindell, Sammy Swindell and Michael Pickens. Crawford won a preliminary feature last year and teams with Hahn out of the Hard 8 Racing stable this year.

Only once in 25 previous editions of the ChiIi Bowl has the Golden Driller stayed within the host state, that occurring in 1994 when Broken Arrow’s Andy Hillenburg took the top spot. But the trio on hand Thursday are among several with legitimate hopes of keeping the coveted trophy in the Sooner State.

Beason came the closest to the top spot last year, finishing just one spot shy of the podium after advancing from “B” Main action.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what things might have gone different for us to get the win,” Broken Arrow’s Beason commented. “Last year, the Midget stayed in the garage all year between the 2010 and 2011 Chili Bowl so it was almost a surprise to us to run so good. I think we’ll be even faster this year.”

Crawford, who made his third Chili Bowl championship feature last year after posting a fifth-place finish as an event rookie in 2007, is unphased by the idea of racing against the likes of NASCAR champions Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

“We’ve been racing this kind of stuff all year, this is what we’re pretty much used to,” the third-generation racer from Broken Arrow explained. “When guys like Tony (Stewart) get here they have to adjust, it’s almost like they’re chasing us.”

Crawford is teamed with young Hahn from Sapulpa, an unlikely pairing given the Hahn-Crawford rivalry of old. Hahn is ready for his second Chili Bowl after a maiden voyage last year aboard a Bob East Midget.

Like Beason, Crawford feels good about his chances of Chili Bowl glory. “John (Kantor) and Hard 8 Racing has given me the best of everything, the stuff I’ve got is every bit as good as Sammy’s (Swindell) or Tony’s (Stewart) or anybody else’s stuff. We’ve got what we need, all we need is just a little Chili Bowl luck to go along with it.”

Hahn explains, after winning the Chevy ECOTec Midget portion of last weekend’s Tulsa Shootout, “That should give me a big advantage, I’ve got a lot of laps in a Midget already plus a ton more in the micro so I’ve got at least twice as many laps as anyone else going in.”

Beason, Crawford and Hahn lead an Oklahoma contingent of Chili Bowl competitors that currently numbers 36, with some other top Oklahoma contenders including Broken Arrow’s Brady Bacon, Mike Goodman and Chett Gehrke, Owasso’s Daryn Pittman and Matt Sherrell, Tulsa’s Dustin Morgan, Norman’s Danny Jennings, Oklahoma City’s Andy Shouse and Guthrie’s Michelle Decker among others.

Currently, there are 261 entries for next week’s Chili Bowl Nationals representing 31 states as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Finland.

Four nights of qualifying action on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will set Saturday’s feature grids, with the top three finishers from each night locking into Saturday’s “A” Main.

Tuesday’s card will also include the Fourth Annual Vacuworx International Race of Champions (VIROC IV).

A limited number of tickets are available for the Tuesday night, January 10, Warren CAT Chili Bowl Qualifier and Vacuworx International Race of Champions for just $43 apiece. Tickets may be obtained by calling the ticket office at 918-838-3777.

Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Quick Facts:

What: 26th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals

Where: Tulsa Expo Raceway – ¼-mile clay oval inside the QuikTrip Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds

January 10-14, 2011
Tuesday – Warren CAT Qualifying Night plus Vacuworx Chili Bowl Race of Champions
Wednesday – River Spirit Casino Qualifying Night
Thursday – Suburban Chevrolet Qualifying Night
Friday – Vacuworx International Qualifying Night
Saturday – Lucas Oil Championship Feature Events

The five nights of racing action will be preceded by a practice session on Monday, January 9.

Past Winners: Kevin Swindell (2010 and 2011), Sammy Swindell (2009, 1998, 1996, 1992 and 1989), Damion Gardner (2008), Tony Stewart (2007 and 2002), Tim McCreadie (2006), Tracy Hines (2005), Cory Kruseman (2004 and 2000), Dan Boorse (2003 and 1999), Jay Drake (2001), Billy Boat (1997), Donnie Beechler (1995), Andy Hillenburg (1994), Dave Blaney (1993), Lealand McSpadden (1991), Jon Heydenreich (1990), Scott Hatton (1988), Rich Vogler (1987).

Trade Show: Always a popular attraction at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is the Trade Show, which is open to the public each day (Tuesday through Saturday) free of charge. All variety of racing products, apparel and more is available with well over 100 different vendors. The Trade Show covers approximately 20,000 square feet.

Tickets: A limited number of reserved seats for Tuesday night’s Warren CAT Qualifying Event and the Fourth Annual Vacuworx International Chili Bowl Race of Champions are available for $43 per person and may be obtained by calling 918-838-3777 or at the gate if still available. Pit passes for all five nights are available at the gate as well.

Chili Bowl on the Net: All official news pertaining to the 26th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, including official entry lists, race results and recaps, is available first at www.chilibowl.com. Also, all five nights of the Chili Bowl Nationals will be broadcast live (audio) on www.racinboys.com.

Additional information regarding the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is available at http://www.chilibowl.com/ or by calling 918-838-3777.