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.
Tony Proves His Worth On Indoor Dirt, Beats Yeley
By DAVE ARGABRIGHT
TULSA, Okla. — In the most quiet, simple way you can imagine, Tony Stewart returned to victory lane at the Tulsa Expo Center on Saturday night at the O’Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. The race took place amid a state of emergency declared by the state of Oklahoma due to a catastrophic ice storm that gripped the region.
On a surface that was considerably slower than past Chili Bowl tracks, this edition featured a huggy-pole groove and very little grip on the exciting outside. Stewart found himself out front while locked onto the bottom groove, carefully and conservatively tip-toeing around the inside berm.
“I told [co-promoter] Emmett Hahn, I hate running the bottom, and I hate winning the Chili Bowl running the bottom, but it sure pays good,” laughed Stewart.
Front-row starter Shane Cottle jumped out front at the outset, with Stewart quickly moving from fifth to second. On lap nine Stewart swept past on the outside, then immediately dropped to the bottom.
J.J. Yeley, who recovered from a spectacular opening night crash, surged from seventh to duel through the early stages with Stewart, moving Andy Bondio’s machine to the outside, searching for a way past.
By the later stages of the race it was clear that Stewart was the class of the field, eventually pulling to a lead of nearly a straightaway. By the final 20 laps nearly the entire field was hugging the bottom.
ARCA regular Justin Allgaier mounted an intense challenge to Yeley for second through the final ten laps, but at the stripe Yeley held the spot by a whisker. Fourth was Cottle, with local favorite Donnie Ray Crawford fifth.
Stewart’s win was especially significant in light of his team’s very recent switch from Mopar to Chevrolet power for 2007, while they continue to utilize Spike Chassis.
“I’m just so proud of our guys,” Stewart insisted. “Three weeks ago we had one car finished, and we brought five here. So to have the weekend we had, opening with a win at the biggest midget race of the year, I’m really happy for Chevrolet to experience that.”
Yeley was happy with second, but disappointed at the same time.
“I just didn’t have enough stagger to run the bottom well,” admitted Yeley. “I was running the outside only to try something different. It started to come to me out there a little bit, but then it dried out and I had no choice but to go to the inside with everybody else.
“I’d love to win this race, and I thought I had the car to do it. But when you consider we kind of had a rough start, I’m okay with sitting here talking about finishing second.”
Allgaier, who rarely runs these cars, was impressive in his third-place run.
“We lost the brakes on lap three, so I just tried to putt around the bottom,” he admitted. “I caught J.J. there toward the end, but I needed for him to make a mistake to get a chance at him, and he didn’t make a mistake.
“I just had fun. I hope this keeps things going in a really positive way early in the season, going in the right direction.”
Polesitter Dave Darland saw his hopes dashed when he tangled with Crawford on lap 35 while running in the lead pack. They collected Jerry Coons Jr., and while Crawford continued on unscathed, Darland and Coons stalled, their chance at victory gone.
Joe Boyles was impressive in his drive from 21st to finish sixth, with Chris Windom using the final transfer position from the second B-main to drive from 23rd to seventh.
Defending Chili Bowl champ Tim McCreadie was forced to use a provisional, then fought his way to finish eighth.
Feature (50 laps):
- Tony Stewart;
- J.J. Yeley;
- Justin Allgaier;
- Shane Cottle;
- Donnie Ray Crawford;
- Joe Boyles;
- Chris Windom;
- Tim McCreadie;
- Mat Neely;
- Tracy Hines;
- Steve Buckwalter;
- Davey Ray;
- Casey Shuman;
- Gary Altig;
- Jon Stanbrough;
- Dave Darland;
- Jason Martin;
- Garrett Hansen;
- Wayne Johnson;
- Jerry Coons, Jr.;
- Jason Leffler;
- Brad Kuhn;
- Ryan Durst;
- Tyler Brown.
Tuesday Night Preliminary: Bubba Altig
Wednesday Night Preliminary: Davey Ray
Thursday Night Preliminary: Shane Cottle
Friday Night Preliminary: Dave Darland