TULSA, Okla. — Kevin Swindell will be trying to stretch his remarkable winning streak to four in the 27th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals against an all-star field of 270 racing at the Quik Trip Center’s quarter-mile clay oval Tulsa Expo Raceway that runs from Tuesday through Saturday.
Swindell became the first driver to win the Chili Bowl back-to-back in 2010 and 2011 and led all 55 laps to take his third Golden Driller trophy home in 2012. The 23-year-old from Germantown, Tenn., will be driving the same Esslinger-powered Spike (with some updates) that he’s had in his three victories.
“For all the effort that everybody puts into it, some of the guys who have won the race and some who keep coming back and can’t win it, it’s pretty neat to win it,” Swindell said. “It’s probably one of the toughest races in the world to win.”
This year’s entry list includes three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and former short track superstar Tony Stewart, who has two Chili Bowl victories and was 10th last year, Sprint Cup regulars Kasey Kahne and JJ Yeley, NASCAR Nationwide’s Justin Allgaier and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Jason Leffler. They all have backgrounds in short track and midgets.
The best from the world of Sprints and Midgets will be in the Chili Bowl, too, with three-time USAC National Driving Champion Bryan Clauson, National Midget Driver of the Year Jerry Coons Jr., wins-at-everything-he-drives Kyle Larson, former two-time World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers, POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget champion Andrew Felker, Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series star Brady Bacon, 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines and 2012 USAC National Midget champion Darren Hagen among those entered.
The Chili Bowl has been a Swindell family affair the past four years. Father Sammy won in 2009 – his fifth in the prestigious event, but first since 1998–and finished second the past two years. Do they have something figured out that the competition doesn’t?
“I don’t know if we do or don’t,” Kevin said. “You have to weasel your way through 60-some cars on the qualifying nights to have a chance. With the quality of cars, it’s almost impossible to win the race from deep in the field. You can try to make your own luck as much as possible, but it’s tough if you don’t start at the front.
“You have to take it one race at a time. With the way they break qualifying into four nights, the quality of cars you have to race dwindles to eight or 10 and you get what you can out of the heat races.”
Qualifying nights are Tuesday through Friday, with the top three in the feature transferring to Saturday’s A-main. Everybody else has to climb into the 24-car finale through a series of sub-mains that can go deep into the alphabet, depending upon the results of their qualifying nights. Swindell will be in Thursday’s Vacuworx Global Qualifying Night.
Kevin Swindell has made Saturday’s A-main in four of his seven previous Chili Bowls. He was sixth in the A-main in 2008, but didn’t make it out of the B-main in 2009. Swindell began the evening in the D-main.
Swindell has a versatile resume. He finished ninth at Texas in a Nationwide race and won in ARCA stock cars at Chicagoland Speedway last year and he’s won in various types and series of Sprint Cars. Swindell doesn’t race them often—he says three or four races a year outside the Chili Bowl — but he enjoys Midgets.
“I’ve always been really comfortable in a Midget,” Swindell said. “It’s one of the cars that I’m truly best at and the way my style is suited, the race track at the Chili Bowl plays into what I like. We build great cars and I’ve been able to adapt to anything I’ve gotten into pretty quickly and that doesn’t hurt either.
“I think it’s definitely possible to win again at the Chili Bowl.”