Drivers That You Didn't Know Ran The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl

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For more than three decades now, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals has been a proving ground for racers from almost every discipline imaginable.

Stars from NASCAR and IndyCar to Sprint Cars and Late Models, and much more, have been shedding their comfort zones and trying to tackle this daunting challenge for a long time now.

Leading into next month’s 35th annual race, one could notice NASCAR’s Chase Elliott, IndyCar’s Santino Ferrucci, NHRA’s Austin Prock, and a handful of other outsiders drawing attention on the entry list.

Why though? Well, Chili Bowl’s season of winter makes it a paradise unparalleled in motorsports. With much of the community sitting idle in the middle of January, racers from all across the globe invade the cold, often snowy, metropolis of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and send the 918’s economy booming.

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Akin to the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, Monaco’s Grand Prix, or the Knoxville Nationals, Chili Bowl is simply The Grandaddy of ‘Em All when it comes to midget racing. 

The beautiful part of Chili Bowl is the list of legends it attracts. It’s not just the Larson, Bell, and Abreu of modern times or the Swindell, Kruseman, and Stewart of year’s past, it’s also the list of icons who have filled the gap with their own stardom.

With that said, let’s take a look back on some of the noteworthy names that you might not have known attempted the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. 

Ken Schrader and Jeff Gordon chat during the 1990 Chili Bowl. 

Names like Schrader, Stewart, Bell and Larson are now synonymous with both the Chili Bowl and NASCAR, but before them all came Jeff Gordon in 1990. At the height of his rise through the midget and sprint car ranks at 18-years-old, Gordon contested the fourth annual event and finished 16th.

The news of current John Force Racing Top Fuel star Austin Prock returning next month with Hayward Motorsports sparks memories of former drag racing icons putting the parachutes away for push trucks. Ron Capps (2004) and Gary Scelzi (2008) are both NHRA Funny Car champions who each advanced as far as the H-Main in Saturday’s CBN finale.

In 2000, Billy Pauch drove for Chili Bowl champion, John Lawson.

Before he went on to win three Indianapolis 500 poles and three IndyCar victories, Ed Carpenter was a two-time Chili Bowl participant in 2000 and 2001. In fact, he opened the new millennium as a heat race winner and nearly qualified for the 14th annual main event.

Preceding Larry Wight – a 2017 preliminary winner – in the category of northeastern modified legends striking gold in Tulsa was Billy Pauch and Brett Hearn. Both drivers made the main event in 1996-97, while Pauch stunned the crowd by winning his preliminary over eventual Chili Bowl champions, Billy Boat and Jay Drake.  

Bloomquist straps into his Maxim Midget in 2003.

In 2002, Scott Bloomquist, a dirt late model icon, made his first attempt at the Chili Bowl. His run ended in the C-Main, but left him hungry enough to return for more in 2003, this time donning his famous No. 0. The eight-time Dirt Late Model Dream champion and four-time World 100 king qualified for his preliminary feature the next year and almost transferred to Saturday’s B-Main.

Like Black Sunshine, many of his full-fender friends have tried their fate in the open-wheel spectacle. Most notably, Tim McCreadie topped the 2006 Chili Bowl and stole the Golden Driller in January before going on to win the 2006 World of Outlaws Late Model Series crown later that year. 

Josh Richards (right) nearly made the Chili Bowl main event in his ’06 debut. 

Other late model legends to contest the Chili Bowl include The Million Dollar Man Donnie Moran in 1995-96, Bart Hartman from 2004-08, Rocket Man Josh Richards from 2006-09, B-Shepp Brandon Sheppard in 2011, Superman Jonathan Davenport in 2017, and The New Deal Hudson O’Neal in 2018.

Sticking out from that group is Richards, a champion with both the World of Outlaws Late Models and Lucas Oil Dirt Late Models. In his Tulsa debut in 2006, a then-17-year-old Josh finished 11th in his preliminary feature and fell one spot short of making Saturday’s finale from the B-Main. 

The Wild Child” was always a thrill at the Chili Bowl. 

Living up to their World of Outlaws moniker, The Greatest Show on Dirt has provided several of Chili Bowl’s greatest hits between champions Swindell, Hillenburg and Blaney, along with close contenders like Kinser, Lasoski, Pittman and Sweet.

Additional Outlaws that have chased Driller’s include Donny Schatz, Jac Haudenschild, David Gravel, Sheldon Haudenschild, Jason Meyers, Cody Darrah, Doug Wolfgang, Joey Saldana, Shane Stewart, Paul McMahan, and plenty others.

Just think, that’s only a small taste of the massive helping Chili Bowl hands out each January.

Tune into FloRacing next month (January 11-16, 2021) to see who might surprise you and roll onto the track for the 35th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

Christopher Bell Beats Kofoid In Thursday's Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Prelim


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The winning trend continued on Thursday night. 

FloRacing Expands Motorcycle Racing Offerings In 2021

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Motocross fans are in for a treat. FloRacing is eager to be expanding its offerings in the sport of motorcycle racing. 

Rico Abreu Romps On Wednesday, Punches Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Ticket


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For the first time in five years, Rico Abreu unleashed a whole brand new look on his Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 97. What didn’t change? His Wednesday night dominance.

More Take Than Give Triggers Arizona Pileup


QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (Jan. 13) — Brian Shirley saw the situation one way. Ricky Thornton Jr. viewed it another.In the first controversial moment of the 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, there was simply no middle ground reached between the two drivers who saw their hopes for victory in Wednesday night’s 30-lap Super Late Model feature dashed by an early-race tangle.The pair of top contenders — Thornton logged finishes of first and second in the miniseries’s opening-weekend events while Shirley was just a bit behind with runs of third and fourth — were battling for third place on lap seven of the A-main when their evenings went awry. Shirley dived low entering turn one and slid up the track in front of Thornton, but Thornton clipped the left side of Shirley’s car and both drivers’ machines collected fifth-place Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.After Thornton retired for a 22nd-place finish and Shirley soldiered on to place 17th in a race captured by Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., they stood in the pit area — separated by just a few stalls, in fact — looking back on the incident with differing opinions.“He saw his opportunity and took it,” Thornton said of Shirley, “and it pretty much didn’t work out.”“He could’ve hit the brakes, you know?” countered Shirley, pointedly questioning Thornton. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m not saying it was all his fault because I did get in there hot, but it was because I wasn’t gonna hit him.”Shirley, 39, of Chatham, Ill., felt that he had cut his rival for position a break on the frontstretch and should have received the same treatment in return between turns one and two. The two drivers were charging hard in pursuit of second-place Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., with Shirley running high through turns three and four and Chandler, Ariz.’s Thornton sucked low until Thornton drifted toward the outside guardrail approaching the starter’s stand, prompting Shirley to abruptly cross over Thornton under the flagman and attempt a slider into the first and second corners.“Just coming off of four there, he was on the bottom and went straight to the wall, and I braked for him,” Shirley detailed. “Then I come down, cleared him like a mile, and he just come in there and doored us. They can watch the video. I never touched him.“I can hit the brakes, he can hit the brakes. I’m more disappointed because I braked for him and he couldn’t brake for me. It’s a two-way street.”From Shirley’s standpoint, his aggressive bid on Thornton was merely him reacting to the opening he was presented.“I made a move because when we were coming out of four, he pushed up,” Shirley said. “I was running the high side and he was running the bottom. He would’ve hit me if I wouldn’t have hit the brakes, so I moved down because I had the momentum to slide him. Instead of him turning back down to try and cross me back over he just ran into the left side of the door.“I don’t know what to say,” he continued. “I don’t know what I would’ve done any different. We wouldn’t have even been in the situation if he wouldn’t have pushed up out of four where I was already there. If he would’ve stayed on the bottom I would’ve went right by him without an issue, but he pushed out so then I had to figure out an exit plan.”Thornton, 30, certainly didn’t agree with the tactics Shirley decided to employ.“So I ran the bottom in three and four,” Thornton began. “I didn’t have all my speed down the front straightaway, and I kind of figured someone was gonna slide me. But then we entered and I thought we were good, and then he slid me, like, kind of late in the corner almost.“Watching the in-car (camera footage from his car), it looked like (Shirley) spun out, but, I think because he carried so much speed in the corner, he knew he was gonna destroy the wall so he tried to turn it sideways. When he did, he pretty much parked it (on the cushion), so then I had nowhere to go. At that point I was already back on the throttle. At that point there was no turning down or anything.”When Thornton contacted Shirley’s car, the right-rear deck and quarter-panel of Thornton’s SSI Motorsports Longhorn mount was pulled astray, leading him to limp into the infield with the sheet metal flopping along the track. Shirley’s Bob Cullen-owned XR1 Rocket was shoved into the outside wall before Scott slid into the back of both cars, eliminating him as well. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., also slapped Shirley’s car as he passed by but was able to continue racing to a fifth-place finish.Thornton felt fortunate that his 3-race-old car escaped the crash with mostly cosmetic damage, but he was well aware that he lost an opportunity to move a step closer to the Keyser Manufacturing bonus dollars posted for winning three or more races.“It just ripped the whole right side off,” said Thornton, who, with three races remaining in the miniseries, remains alive for the bonuses of $10,000 (three wins) and $25,000 (four victories). “It got the body, left-rear shock, couple left-rear parts just from Stormy getting in the left rear.“It kind of sucks for that to happen, especially on lap six of the race or whatever it was,” he added. “I had a really good car. I took off and I was running hard, but not so hard that I was gonna kill my stuff.”While there was no love lost between the two drivers after the incident — a Thornton team member even expressed his displeasure by tossing a signal stick at Shirley’s passing car in the infield (the stick bounced off Shirley’s car and nearly struck a photographer standing nearby) — they were ready to move on to the concluding weekend of WWS action.“It is what it is,” Thornton said, “and we’ll get it fixed up and try again on Friday.”“Luckily it just looks like a lot of bodywork, but it still ruins your night,” Shirley commented. “We started 11th and was passing him for third so it wasn’t like we sucked. We’ve been trying different things, little bitty things every race we’re in. In the heat race I felt like we were horrible, and then, I hate to say, we just put the thing back to where it was when I won them races last year (three WWS features) and that’s how I went.“We’ll put it back together and hopefully next time circumstances might come out a little different.”

2021 FloRacing Drag Racing Live Stream Season Preview


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Kyle Larson Leads Meseraull To Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Main Event On Tuesday


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The grass is green. The sky is blue. Kyle Larson wins Tuesday at Chili Bowl.

BREAKING: $200,000 Huset's USAC Nationals Set for Sept. 2021

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Cannon McIntosh Is Mr. Monday At Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals


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It took only three years for a repeat winner to surface in Monday’s preliminary program at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

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