This week, IMS staff photographer Chris Jones will be providing updates from the 30th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
What is the Chili Bowl?: The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is an indoor dirt race held each January inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square. Inside the massive Expo Center is a temporary quarter-mile clay dirt track along with pits for all the entrants and grandstands for 15,000 race fans.
Why is IMS covering the Chili Bowl?: Each year the Chili Bowl is the first major race on the North American race calendar. It draws a who’s who of open-wheel short track racers plus racers from other disciplines who want to tackle the challenge. This year there are over 340 drivers vying for the Golden Driller trophy awarded to the winner.
During the previous 29 Chili Bowls, there have been 20 different winners. Six of the former winners also competed in the Indy 500 or Brickyard 400, including inaugural Chili Bowl winner Rich Vogler, two-time winner Tony Stewart, Donnie Beechler, Billy Boat, Bryan Clauson and Dave Blaney.
Which entrants this year are also Indy 500 or Brickyard 400 veterans?: Two-time Indy 500 entrant Bryan Clauson is back again trying to earn his second Chili Bowl win. His first night on the track is Friday. Current Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Sarah Fisher, who competed in nine Indy 500s, will be on the track Thursday. Past Brickyard 400 veterans entered this year include Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., J.J. Yeley, Alex Bowman and Justin Allgaier.
What’s to look forward to?: With so many entrants, there are four nights of qualifying races preceding Saturday’s race activity. Drivers finishing in the top three in the final race each qualifying night earn a direct entry to Saturday’s final. Everyone returns on Saturday, which features numerous elimination races to determine an additional 12 drivers for the 55-lap main event. A driver’s finish on qualifying night determines where he or she will start in Saturday’s preliminary elimination races.
The cars that race in the Chili Bowl are very similar to the USAC midget cars. They allow for close wheel-to-wheel action – sometimes a little too close as it’s not uncommon to see some cars in the air.
If you aren’t in Tulsa and want to check out the action, you can view qualifying nights and Saturday’s preliminary elimination races at www.racinboys.com pay-per-view site. The final feature race on Saturday will be shown live on MAVTV at 8:30 p.m. ET. You can also follow the Chili Bowl Twitter feed @CBNationals.