33rd an­nual Chili Bowl Na­tion­als start Mon­day

The Oklahoman - - CLASSIFIEDS - BY JOHN RITTENOURE

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.”

TULSA WORLD] [PHOTO BY JESSIE WAR­DARSKI,

Christo­pher Bell of Nor­man won last year’s Chili Bowl mid­get sprint car main event. Bell won for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

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