Chili Bowl Notes: Old Engine Powers Swindell

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STILL SLAMMIN’: Sammy Swindell drove his Esslinger-powered Stealth to victory in the Thursday night qualifier before finishing second in the Chili Bowl 50-lap feature Saturday in Tulsa, Okla. (Frank Smith Photo)
STILL SLAMMIN’: Sammy Swindell drove his Esslinger-powered Stealth to victory in the Thursday night qualifier before finishing second in the Chili Bowl 50-lap feature Saturday in Tulsa, Okla. (Frank Smith Photo)

TULSA, Okla. — Sammy and Kevin Swindell have won the past three Chili Bowls.

The Swindells put a lot of preparation into this once-a-year event. Their midgets sit unattended in the shop for most of the year until preparation begins shortly before Christmas.

While rumor and myth led many Chili Bowl fans to believe S. Swindell broke out a new car every year, he said this was the 10th year for the Esslinger-powered Stealth he won with Thursday. It gets cosmetic and set-up changes, but the essential package remains unchanged.

“The Esslinger engine is 10 years old, we may have to freshen it up one of these days,” S. Swindell said dryly.

– The closest a driver came to scoring back-to-back Chili Bowl wins before Kevin Swindell was Lealand McSpadden (1991) and Cory Kruseman (2004) who both finished second after a previous year’s win. All four of the efforts came driving for Andy Bondio.

– Saturday’s top five finishers all used Ford-Esslinger engines, with four of them in Spike Chassis. Spike has claimed seven of the last eight events, with Ford-Esslinger scoring four straight.

– Fifty-five-year-old Jimmy Sills came out of retirement and returned to the Chili Bowl. Sills won the second C main Saturday and ran well in his B main, just missing transferring into the feature. Former Chili Bowl champion Jay Drake, who has raced sparingly in recent years, was also in the field Jan. 12.

– Extreme sports star Brian Deegan tried his hand at midget racing Friday at the Chili Bowl, steering one of Cory Kruseman’s entries with sponsorship from the Metal Militia brand built by Deegan and other extreme sports athletes.

– World Racing Group CEO and part-time racer Brian Carter looked strong on his qualifying night here. He led his heat until he was bounced out of the lead by Garrett Hansen with two laps remaining. Carter came back to win the first C main and finish 12th in the B main.

– Nick Knepper, son of noted midget driver Steve Knepper and grandson of Arnie Knepper, shied away from comparisons to his father after finishing third behind Jerry Coons, Jr. and Sammy Swindell Thursday night.

“It’s tough to get compared to my old man, just like I am sure it’s tough for Kevin [Swindell] to be compared to his old man,” Knepper said. “It is awesome for me to sit up here with these two guys [S. Swindell and Coons]. I’m not going to think about the future. All I care about is what I am doing tonight and what I am doing Saturday night.”

– After finishing second Friday, Dave Darland poked fun at winner Shane Cottle’s “huggy-pole” style, but continued that he’s seen Cottle “win a lot of races that way.”

– After an impressive two wins in the recent Tulsa Shootout, Blake Hahn, grandson of Chili Bowl co-promoter Emmett Hahn, made his midget debut. Driving Terry Klatt’s No. 4, Hahn won his heat on Thursday, but came up short of making the feature.

– Kevin Swindell and Dakoda Armstrong both returned to the track on Friday after several days of ARCA testing at Daytona Int’l Speedway.