TULSA, Okla. – Sixteen-year-old Cannon McIntosh will realize a dream over the course of the next three weeks, as he prepares to make his debut at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
McIntosh, who grew up half an hour south of the Tulsa Expo Center in nearby Bixby, Okla., will wheel his family’s No. 08 Toyota Racing Development/Car & Fleet Parts/Precision Inspection Spike-Toyota entry Jan. 14-19 during the 33rd edition of the Super Bowl of Midget Racing.
Additional supporters of the team include American Discount Brake and Muffler, RL Hudson, Fieldhouse Gear, Smith Titanium, Sanders & Associates, D&N Fabrication, Best Graphics, Walker Filtration and Sander Engineering.
The Sooner State teenager has spent years both watching and competing in Tulsa, taking home a Golden Driller from the 2014 Tulsa Shootout in the Junior Sprint class, but this year represents much more for McIntosh.
“It’s a chance to do something I’ve thought about for my entire life,” McIntosh told SPEED SPORT. “I’ve waited for this for so long. It has been fun to be able to tell everyone that we’re building a brand-new car specifically for the Chili Bowl. Not a lot of people get to say that. The fact that we’re doing it with family and friends, in our home shop and don’t have to go far makes it all the more important.”
Having driven primarily a black-and-gold entry this past season, McIntosh is debuting a new color scheme and design for the Chili Bowl, something he’s particularly excited about.
“I’m super pumped about the new car; I think it looks great,” he noted. “It’s definitely a lot different than the car we had this past year, but I think it stands out just as much. It’s going to look great on the track and we hope it’s as fast as it looks, for sure.”
Though he’ll be a favorite of the home crowd, McIntosh was also quick to point out that he doesn’t feel any added weight just because he’s from the Tulsa area.
In fact, he plans to use the home crowd as motivation.
“There’s lots of pressure to do well there, but at the same time it’s cool knowing that it’s your home and you’ve been there all the years before,” said McIntosh. “I feel like that’s a confidence-booster and that from all that time watching, I somewhat know what to expect.
“Driving the midget … I’m obviously used to what that feels like, but there is a difference between a regular national event and the Chili Bowl,” he added. “It’s going to be crazy, but I’m so excited to get the craziness going and experience it for real for the first time.”
McIntosh’s history at the Tulsa Shootout – the annual precursor to the Chili Bowl – is also something that he feels like gives him a leg up on the other rookies coming to this year’s event.
It also means he knows how to celebrate on the frontstretch stage as well, considering his success there four years ago.
“I feel like the (Tulsa) Shootout has definitely prepped me for the Chili Bowl. I started there in Junior Sprints and I’ve worked my way all the way through the ranks. It helps you acclimate to the pressure and what to expect … and of course, winning the Driller in 2014 was a highlight.
“At 12, it was something to experience and I remember how many people there were in victory lane … it was overwhelming but definitely something that I want to experience again.”
McIntosh will be racing in both the Shootout and the Chili Bowl during the month of January, meaning he’ll have extra track time under his belt before he takes to the confines of the Expo Center in a midget for the first time.
“The track itself is a place where you have to be able to gather it up and not be afraid to get up on the cushion when it builds up,” noted McIntosh. “If you’re running the bottom, you have to be really smooth and not let the berm get to you. The Expo Center can be a really tricky place.
“This year, I just want to be able to read the track and see how it changes through the week,” he continued. “As a driver, I obviously would love nothing more than to make the main event on Saturday night, but we just want to do the best we can and not make too many mistakes. A mistake in a heat can hurt your whole week.”
Alongside the additional laps, McIntosh is grateful for the support that Toyota Racing Development – which has won the last four Chili Bowls with Keith Kunz Motorsports – has given his team over the last year and will give when he finally rolls into the Expo Center.
“Toyota has been a huge part of short-track racing and they’ve done a lot to get our team to the point that we’re at now,” he noted. “I can’t thank them enough for believing in me and helping me advance on the race track this early in my career. It means a ton.”
Above all, McIntosh said he’s just ready to soak in the moment and have a lot of fun along the way.
“One of my big goals is to focus on enjoying this whole experience,” he smiled. “I’ve run the Shootout before, but you only get to race in your first Chili Bowl once, so I’m going to take it all in as much as I can.”