TULSA, Okla. — Sammy Swindell is out for vengeance at this year’s 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Presented by General Tire.
Swindell has won the most events — five — and has earned the most Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions wins — four — during the premier midget event inside the River Spirit Expo Center.
However, he is looking to erase the sour memories from last year’s event when he returns to the bullring this Tuesday for the Race of Champions before his preliminary night on Wednesday.
“It was disappointing last year,” he said. “I got beat up a lot. We tore up a lot of stuff that normally doesn’t happen. I felt like we had a good car, good enough to race and win; just the circumstances of being in the wrong place got us last year more than anything else.”
Swindell is optimistic about his chances to claim his sixth title in a race car he only gets to drive once a year.
“Every time I’ve been in one I’ve been competitive,” he said. “Not doing it a lot says something too I guess. Most of the time it’s been a little bit of fun and something different. When you get to do something different, once a year, it has a little more fun to it.”
Swindell was victorious at the prestigious event in 1989, 1992, 1996, 1998 and 2009.
“We built a new car for this year, but it’s not much different,” he said. “We wanted to improve on what’s been working; things you learn from one year to the next. The dirt there changes and the way they do the track changes so we’ve had to do a few things over the years to be good.”
• USAC open-wheel veteran Justin Grant will drive a sixth Clauson-Marshall Racing midget in the event held inside River Spirit Center.
With the addition of Grant, Clauson-Marshall Racing may have the most star-studded driver lineup in Chili Bowl history with eight-time World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz, Knoxville Nationals winner Jason Johnson, two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and up-and-coming USAC stars Tyler Courtney and Shane Golobic.
• Johnny Herrera is aiming to make his first A Main during the Chili Bowl Nationals finale.
Herrera will pilot a midget for Roger and Lara Miller when he takes to the track on Wednesday night.
“I’ve driven for them off and on since about 2010 or 2011,” he said. “It’s an event and a good time. You still want to do well of course, but that’s the competitive nature of everyone who races. At the same time it’s to have a little fun.”
Herrera said his best Chili Bowl performance was advancing into a B Main during the finale and he is hoping to top that performance this year.
“I believe the best I’ve got is the B Main,” he said. “I’ve been all over the map in the C Mains and D Mains. A couple of years ago was my best shot and then we had an engine failure. We lost oil pressure and hurt a motor like two laps in.”
Herrera will also be a car owner for the first time at the Chili Bowl. He has partnered with John Stroud to put together a car for driver Bricen James out of Oregon. James, whose Chili Bowl preliminary night is Thursday, finished 16th in December during the Junior Knepper 55 at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Ill.
“In DuQuoin he had a fairly decent run,” Herrera said. “He made the main event in his first time in a midget. I thought he did a good job for never being in a midget. We’re looking forward to the Chili Bowl after he’s got some laps under his belt.”