By T.J. Buffenbarger
(January 15, 2022) — The 37th Chili Bowl Nationals is in the books. Here are T.J’s Takeaways from Saturday’s finale.
- Logan Seavey and Kevin Swindell capped off what could be considered a banner week during the 37th Chili Bowl Nationals. Swindell along with his wife Jordan launched their new beverage venture Victory Fuel during the Tulsa Shootout and Chili Bowl Nationals, made their first attempt at being car owners in the event, and picked up “one for the thumb” with Swindell’s fifth victory in the event and first as a car owner.
The beverage was well received, the car was fast right of the trailer and had people talking all week about how good is was, and Seavey drove an excellent race to keep the
After being edged out of winning the USAC Silver Crown Championship by Kody Swanson at the end of the 2022 season, Seavey starts 2023 on a high note with the biggest victory of his career. Seavey’s second place in the O’Reilly Race of Champions on Monday was the only blemish on the team’s record this week as they won ever other even they participated in.
To have that kind of performance with over 300 cars in the building is remarkable.
Now the only thing left to be seen is how Seavey and Swindell can build on this victory during the 2023 season with their driving and car ownership respectively.
- Inopportune cautions are just a part of racing, but for Cannon McIntosh and defending Chili Bowl champion Tanner Thorson a couple of untimely cautions towards the end of the 55-lap finale seemed to zap momentum he had built up at the top just as it appeared he would make a serious challenge for the lead.
McIntosh recovered from some bobbles early in the race and put himself in position a couple of times navigating the tricky top of the Tulsa Expo Raceway knowing that rubber was going to start being laid down in the bottom groove at any moment. Debris on lap 13 zapped momentum McIntosh had built up to make a serious challenge for the victory.
Thorson had several looks under Seavey but could not complete the pass. Just as things were starting to heat up each time, the caution flag appeared and wiped out his momentum as well.
Could McIntosh or Thorson have got by Seavey without the cautions? That’s hard to ascertain because Seavey had such good car all week.
- The Chili Bowl Nationals appears to have the issue of being a victim of their own success. With over 300 cars regularly turning out along with over 1,000 entries for the Tulsa Shootout preceding the Chili Bowl, the track surface may not be able to realistically handle that much racing action and produce action in the finales that both events became famous for in it’s current state.
Most of the compelling action during the last day of the Chili Bowl happened earlier in the day when Kris Carrol made his record breaking run through the alphabet soup advancing through seven features earlier in the day before his run ended in the H-Main.
The Expo Raceway still shows us moments of the spectacular racing that made it famous. The preliminary features during the early part of the week were highly entertaining and there were plenty of heat races an qualifier races that lived up to the high expectations the event carries.
I know there are a lot of people that complain about the track prep downtime at the Chili Bowl, especially on Saturday. It’s a no-win situation though as if the track goes too far away in the finale they were be chastised, but get the same reaction if the do a complete track rework and try to avoid a one lane race track.
Tires and the actual surface play into this as well, but I think we have to start being realistic about our expectations on Saturday at the Chili Bowl based on the sheer number of races and entries taking to the track that day. I don’t know if different dirt or some sort of tire compound/construction change would really help with number of races they are cycling through. I’d hate to see them push some of the lower mains to a different day because seeing a run like Carrol’s is part of what makes Saturday special at the Chili Bowl.
At the end of the day my reasoning on what needs to change is like the answer I gave people when they asked my thoughts of drivers that didn’t participate at the Chili Bowl this year. There were still over 300 entries, the building was jam packed with people on Saturday night, and the party still was going strong after the races each night just as it has for the previous 36 editions, still making the Chili Bowl Nationals the ultimate winter event leading into a new racing season.