By T.J. Buffenbarger
(January 2, 2021) — With the 2022 edition of the Tulsa Shootout in the books here are a few takeaways from looking in at the over 1,300 competitors over five days at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.
• If the Tulsa Shootout features are an indication of how good the racing will be in the 2022 season, we are in for a treat. Every class put on a highly entertaining finale to cap off a busy four days of racing at the Tulsa Expo Raceway.
The photo finishes in the stock and outlaw non-wing classes had social media buzzing with Emerson Axsom edging Alex Bright out for a victory in the stock non-wing feature followed by crashing while racing for the lead in the Outlaw non-wing class as Oklahoma driver Jeffrey Newell picked up the win by just Jake Hagopian 0.058 seconds had social media buzzing.
The event had plenty of positive emotion shown as well with interviews from Axsom following the near miss in the outlaw non-wing feature and Garrett Benson, who gained a lot of attention for his work ethic that was featured on the Floracing broadcast throughout the week, was as emotional as you would see at any racing event.
Back that up with Jake Hagopian winning his second driller, the first crossing the finish line first as his previous victory was from a disqualification, and outrunning Tyler Courtney and Christopher Bell to do it was very impressive. Hagopian flipping in the outlaw finale.
While the Winged Outlaw 55 lap finale was dominated by Warsaw Indiana’s Craig Ronk, Thomas Kunsman was close enough at the end to keep Ronk honest over the final five laps.
Overall, I found the Saturday product to be highly entertaining from afar.
• The micro sprints are not always in the spotlight. I’ve often said we need to do more micro coverage on TJSlideways.com, but at the end of the day there just isn’t the hours in a day to do it. At a minimum I believe bringing back a “future stars” weekend where I head out to one of the bigger Indiana micro races at the end of the year needs to happen.
The shootout makes me jealous of places like California, Washington, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and other places with thriving 600cc micro racing scenes that produce top notch talent. Michigan has one micro venue, but it’s never approached the level we see in those regions.
• If the Shootout is a glimpse of what we might see at the Chili Bowl Nationals in two weeks, look for the winner to be perfect on the bottom of the racetrack. While the cushion had its moments throughout the Saturday program, eventually the bottom lane was supreme most of the time I spent watching throughout the week, especially during feature time.
At least once next week we are going to see someone lose a feature because they didn’t come off the bottom or catch the top during one of the moments where its faster than the low side of the track. Based on what I witnessed this week though I don’t see the Chili Bowl finale being won banging a right rear off the fence.
• Hats off to anyone that slogged through five days and 359 events of competition at Tulsa over the past five days. From drivers, crews, officials, broadcasters, employees of the Tulsa Expo Center, the days were like repeating the Chili Bowl Saturday program over four days. For those that stuck the entire week out make sure to get some rest to do it all over again in a week at the Chili Bowl Nationals.