33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals start Monday
TULSA — With 355 drivers from 33 states and five countries converging on Tulsa for the 33rd annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl midget car races, getting everything to fit within the confines of the River Spirit Expo Center continues to be a challenge every year.
Time management is also a challenge, so for the first time, the Chili Bowl has become a six-day event, giving fans one more day of racing. And it all gets underway Monday.
The addition of one more day will result in a slight change in qualifying format. With five days of qualifying, only the top two drivers each night will lock into Saturday’s main event instead of three, like in the past. That locks in 10 drivers with the remaining 14 starters coming from Saturday night B mains.
Chili Bowl co-promoter and founder Emmett Hahn sees the changes as a positive.
“For the fans and our help. When you look at it everything is a win-win,” Hahn said of the changes. "It will be a better racetrack, get out earlier, and it spreads out the top drivers during the week. There is not a negative to it.”
The added night is a plus for those who don’t already have tickets.
“For those people who can’t get a reserved seat this is perfect for them,” Hahn said.
Once again many big name teams from many forms of racing have entered multiple car teams. Leading the way is Keith Kunz, who has brought 11 cars to the show. As a car owner, Kunz has won the past four Chili Bowls. Twotime champion Christopher Bell returns in a Kunz car along with Rico Abreu, who won in 2015-16.
“The A team is coming back,” Hahn said with a smile. “We are going to have all the stars here. The quality of cars keeps getting better and better.”
One of the keys to the show's success is the building and upkeep of the dirt track, which has stayed consistent over the years.
“The guys have done a great job on the racetrack last week,” Hahn said. “We loosened it up to got it a little tackier.
“Christopher Bell was on MRN this past week and said you always know what the racetrack is going to be. The berm is always in the same place, the track is the same width. You always know what you are going to get.”
It is a never ending task keeping enough dirt on hand after each season of racing.
“A year ago, we added about 50 trailer loads,’ Hahn said. “Whenever we find some clay around, we get it and add it to the
stock pile. We have gotten clay from Owasso, Creek County, Hillcrest
Hospital, 51st and Mingo. Anyplace close we get it.”
Christopher Bell of Norman won last year’s Chili Bowl midget sprint car main event. Bell won for the second consecutive year.