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.
Makes Long Trip Worthwhile
By MIKE KERCHNER
TULSA, Okla. — Cory Kruseman received the rewards of a long journey Saturday night as the open-wheel ace earned his second Golden Driller trophy, topping the 18th annual O’Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
Kruseman made the 22-hour journey from New Zealand where he’s been racing this winter, to steer Andy Bondio’s familiar No. 47 to victory in what was a thrilling 50-lap feature.
Kruseman held off Danny Lasoski and his teammate, J.J. Yeley, who turned in a performance in the second Bondio-prepared No. 47 that few will soon forget.
But in the end it was Kruseman, who held the trophy he traveled half way around the world to get.
“That little guy that they give you means everything in the world,” Kruseman said of the Golden Driller trophy. “You just can’t get one of those anywhere. You have to come here and beat 218 people and the best equipment. It shows you the versatility and competitiveness at this race track.”
Kruseman started fourth and took the lead from Lasoski as the duo raced past flagger Roger Slack’s crossed flags, signifying the halfway point in the race.
From there he held off Lasoski on eight restarts, with the World of Outlaws veteran charging to the bottom repeatedly, while Kruseman held the cushion.
“I could run on the bottom and keep up with him,” Lasoski said, “but once he’d get ahead of me. I couldn’t catch him.”
“The bottom line is that we just got beat,” he said. “We had a good race car. I didn’t do the right things to my car and he did to his. I’m the world’s worst loser.”
While Kruseman, who also won the Chili Bowl in 2000 and led much of the 2003 event before dropping out while leading, continued on the point, a thrilling battle raged behind.
Lasoski held a firm grasp on second, but Kruseman and Stewart were quickly coming to the front using the bottom groove. The pair worked their way around Davey Ray and Jason Leffler, who had run in the top five the entire race, then waged their own battle, trading slide jobs at each end of the track. Yeley finally shut the door on Stewart, but it was too late to run down the leaders.
“Up on top we all seemed to run the same speed, but I adjusted the shocks so I could run the bottom,” Yeley said. “Once I got to third I was trying to run down Lasoski.”
With Stewart finishing fourth, it completed a top-four sweep for drivers affiliated with Tony Stewart Racing. Yeley and Kruseman drove USAC sprint cars for Stewart last year, while Lasoski wheels the full-time NASCAR driver’s World of Outlaws car.
Leffler, who started on the pole, finished fifth. Defending Chili Bowl champion Dan Boorse was sixth, while Danny Stratton, who advanced from the D main, took seventh.
While Yeley drove a brand-new midget dubbed “a space-shuttle-looking thing,” by Kruseman, the winner drove a battled tested machine with an engine that would be called ancient by some.
“The cylinder heads were built in 1993,” Kruseman reported. “A lot of people look at Andy kind of differently. Andy does a hell of a job with what he does. It looks like we are a high-dollar team. We come out here with highly competitive cars that drive really nicely.
“He has his own machine shop and he builds all his own parts. He turns down jobs to work on these race cars. An advantage we have is that we only run this car at the Chili Bowl and it works really well here. That’s what matters.”
Feature (50 laps):
- Cory Kruseman;
- Danny Lasoski;
- J.J. Yeley;
- Tony Stewart;
- Jason Leffler;
- Dan Boorse;
- Danny Stratton;
- Davey Ray;
- Tracy Hines;
- Dave Darland;
- Chad DeSelle;
- Boston Reid;
- Jerry Coons, Jr.;
- Bobby East;
- Danny Ebberts;
- Josh Wise;
- Gary Wright;
- Scott Hatton;
- Ray Bull;
- Donnie Beechler;
- Troy Rutherford;
- Jimmy Sills;
- Steve Buckwalter;
- Kasey Kahne.
Wednesday Night Preliminary: Danny Lasoski
Thursday Night Preliminary: Jason Leffler
Friday Night Preliminary: Jerry Coons, Jr.