The 25th annual Chili Bowl Nationals will be held Jan. 11-15 at the QuickTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway.
In celebration of the Silver Anniversary of this prestigious indoor midget race, www.nationalspeedsportnews.com will be publishing the race reports that appeared in the pages of National Speed Sport News for the first 24 runnings of the event.
Beginning with the inaugural event in 1987, race recaps will be posted on a daily basis from Dec. 18 through Jan. 10.
Last Year’s Runner-Up, This Year’s Victor
By MIKE O’LEARY
TULSA, Okla. – Cory Kruseman waited a whole year to improve one position. Saturday night, he romped to victory in the 14th annual O’Reilly Chili Bowl at Tulsa Exposition Center.
Seated center stage in this press conference following the race, he glanced at the statue of the Tulsa oil driller as he referred to the accomplishment. “Only one person in the whole room gets one of these trophies and it’s a pretty neat trophy. Anytime you finish second you come back and try harder because it’s a lot easier to fall to third. So we just went out there and gave 100 percent.”
PUSH THE CUSHION
Kruseman rode the cushion to a thrilling victory in a silver midget designed, built and owned by Andy Bondio, with power provided by John Barnes. Kruseman led all 50 circuits, although Tracy Hines challenged in traffic. Shane Cottle was nearly a straightaway behind at the checkered flag. Bud Kaeding, Joe Boyles and Hines completed the top five.
From outside front row, Kruseman edged ahead of Dave Darland in the first turn, with Hines taking second on the backstretch. Kevin Doty squeezed in line behind his Wilke-PAK teammate for fourth, followed by Boyles and Dan Boorse. The first caution slowed the field when Critter Malone and Mike Hess got together on lap two.
The midtrack cushion was fast as Kruseman quickly stretched his lead on the restart. The first four stretched two seconds among themselves and Boyles, who headed a busy pack. Hess and Ricky Shelton tangled to produce a yellow. When Malone slipped wide on the restart, Shelton slid into him, flipping hard and taking both cars out of competition.
Hines began searching for a weakness, sticking his nose inside Kruseman on the restart. But Kruseman pulled ahead and Hines rejoined the line of Darland, Doty, Wright, Boorse and Greg Lueckert filling the top groove. Further back, Kevin Olson, Jimmy Sills and Sammy Swindell tested the bottom.
On lap 13, the leaders caught the rear of the field. Kruseman chose the high route, banging wheels with Hess, as Hines dived to the inside. With slower cars embroiled in their own battles ahead, Hines found a hole on the bottom and grabbed the lead in the second turn. When they reached the end of the backstraight, Kruseman went to the bottom, where Darland was trying to make a pass. Thursday night’s winner used all of the brake before hitting Kruseman with his right front and spinning up into the turn. With nowhere to go, Doty clobbered Darland. Under the yellow, Sills hurried his Calderwood ride into the pits with the area around the rear brakes in flames. While Darland was towed up the ramp to the pits, Doty returned to the race.
On the lap-14 restart, Hines again tried the bottom, but Kruseman pulled ahead. Hines raced a length behind Kruseman, watching for an opportunity to strike. But on lap 17, when he got into turn three too quickly and touched the brakes, the engine locked and the Calderwood No. 40 slid into the wall.
When Kruseman led Wright, Boorse, Boyles, Lueckert, Cottle and Olson to the green flag, the best show on the track was in the middle of the pack. Starting last, Jason Leffler had scratched his way to 10th in Dino Tomassi’s Beast. In the next two circuits, he used the bottom to pass Olson and Keith Rauch. Then Swindell caught a rut and stalled in turn two.
Wright stayed with Kruseman on the restart, but the Texan was passed by Boorse when he slowed momentarily in the second turn. Kruseman built a straightaway lead as Leffler continued to battle forward. By lap 23 he was sixth, and dueling with Lueckert. With a lengthy period of green-flag racing, Kruseman worked traffic. On lap 38, Kruseman caught the rear bumper of Donnie Lehmann as he charged into the third turn, spinning Lehmann.
With a dozen laps remaining, Kruseman had four lapped cars between himself and Boorse. Leffler and Doty ducked under Lueckert a lap later, and the battle for second became furious amid the gaggle of lapped cars. Leffler shoved under Wright, and even seized second for a moment. But Boorse battled back and Leffler slipped over the cushion allowing Wright to past. On the 44th lap, Wright slid over the cushion and flipped. Avoiding the wreck, Leffler and Doty slid to a stop and collected Westfall.
While the field prepared for the restart, Boorse suddenly climbed through the rollcage as his car rolled into the pit area. The sudden heat from a broken U-joint had caused the abrupt exit of his Weiland Racing Stealth after an exceptional effort.
Competing in his first Chili Bowl, Cottle found himself second, four lapped cars behind the leader, as Kruseman took the green. By the time he dispatched Casey Slocum and Michael Lang, he was a straightaway ahead of the Bondio machine. At last Kruseman cruised under Monte Edwards’ checkers, ending the 50-lap war. Behind Cottle, Kaeding, in Terry Caves’ Lightening, fended off a resolute effort by Boyles to grab third.
“He got me clean,” Kruseman described Hines’ pass. “We got in lapped cars and it was follow for about three laps, and I thought, ‘I ain’t getting by,’ so it was time to start doing some of the Chili Bowl driving and get your arms up and start sliding and stuff like that. We didn’t run the bottom until then, and we had to try it. Obviously he had a bird’s eye view of what was going to happen.”
Kruseman applauded Lealand McSpadden, his crew chief, for the winning setup. “Who do you think? McSpadden, the sharpest guy in the whole world. I just hung on. He kept giving me that okay sign. He said even when you would screw up, you wouldn’t lose too much ground.”
Cottle, who drives a Stealth/Fontana for Kevin Gross, admitted he wanted to chase Kruseman to the finish. “If I could have, but unfortunately I got slammed by a lapped car. I don’t think I could have caught him anyway. He was too good.”
Bud Kaeding shared credit with his father [Brent] for taking third in the closing laps, “I watched a couple tapes from the years back when my dad ran here back [’91 and ’93], and he kind of gave me a little advice. If the track gets too wide, the bottom is always going to be faster because it’s shorter around. And I think that’s basically where I picked up my position because I was using a shorter track.”
Feature (50 laps):
- Cory Kruseman;
- Shane Cottle;
- Bud Kaeding;
- Joe Boyles;
- Tracy Hines;
- Greg Lueckert;
- Boyd Calvert;
- Matt Westfall;
- Jason Leffler;
- Don Lehmann;
- Kevin Doty;
- Keith Rauch;
- Sammy Swindell;
- Kevin Olson;
- Michael Lang;
- Casey Slocum;
- Mike Hess;
- Dan Boorse;
- Gary Wright;
- Dave Darland;
- Jimmy Sills;
- Critter Malone;
- Ricky Shelton.
Thursday Night Preliminary: Dave Darland
Friday Night Preliminary: Cory Kruseman