INDIANAPOLIS — Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will headline a blockbuster four-driver team for Tony Stewart Racing at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Jan. 10-14.
Stewart made his most recent appearance in the event in 2008, finishing eighth in the A-main finale. After taking a three-year hiatus from the biggest Midget race of the year, Stewart will return in January behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet/Chevrolet Performance Parts/Spike.
“Having taken a few years off from competing in the Chili Bowl, I’m really looking forward to returning to Tulsa and the event in 2012,” Stewart said. “It’s one of the biggest Midget races of the year and it’s just a lot of fun to compete in the Chili Bowl. I’m also glad that we’ll be able to give our partners, Chevrolet and Chevrolet Performance Parts, another shot at a Golden Driller. I think it’s very feasible that we could get four cars in the A-Main on Saturday night. Bryan Clauson and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – they’re guys who are going to be a threat in every A-Main they start. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be part of this deal and I think we’re going to have a good chance of putting a car in the winner’s circle.”
The 26th annual event inside the typically fan-packed confines of the QuikTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway will see Stewart join one of the most powerful teams ever assembled for one of racing’s most unique events.
Joined by 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2011 United States Auto Club (USAC) National Drivers champion Bryan Clauson, and 2011 POWRi Rookie of the Year Jake Blackhurst, the formidable foursome is without a doubt the biggest threat to take home the Golden Driller trophy in 2012.
Stewart has two Golden Drillers in his collection after scoring Chili Bowl victories in 2002 and 2007. The newly crowned, three-time NASCAR titlist will lead the four-car “Team of Champions” into the 2012 Chili Bowl behind the wheel of a special edition black, carbon-fiber entry that has been dubbed the “Back in Black” car. He’ll look to give Chevrolet its second Chili Bowl triumph.
Clauson will pilot the No. 39c INDYCAR/Indy 500/Spike/Esslinger for co-entrants Corey Tucker Racing (CTR)/Bryan Clauson, Inc. (BCI)/Curb-Agajanian Racing. The four-time USAC champion has made two A-main starts in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. He scored his best finish in 2008, taking the checkered flag in fourth place. Clauson has also won a preliminary A-main in the Chili Bowl in the Tuesday-night 25-lap qualifier last January.
“Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to add a lot of marquee wins to my resume, but there’s still one hole I’d like to fill, and that’s the Chili Bowl,” Clauson said. “We came so close last year before settling for a fifth-place finish. I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Tulsa to chase the Golden Driller and bragging rights. I’m also really flattered to be representing the INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500 in this year’s race. It’s a great honor to have those names on the side of my car and it will be a lot of fun trying to put a car representing the greatest race in the world in victory lane at the biggest short-track race of the year.”
The 22-year-old open-wheel standout has a long list of credentials that includes 23 USAC National Midget Series victories, two USAC National Midget Series championship titles, two USAC Indiana Midget Week titles and two Belleville Midget Nationals triumphs. In addition to being a two-time USAC National Drivers champion, Clauson has also been named National Midget Driver of the Year three times in his young career. IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard recently announced that Clauson will compete in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 as part of his award for wining his second consecutive USAC National Drivers championship.
Recently crowned NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Stenhouse, will compete for the Team of Champions for CTR/BCI/Curb-Agajanian Racing in the No. 39i Curb Records/Spike/Esslinger. Fresh off his championship run, Stenhouse will look to earn his first Golden Driller trophy. While his full-time efforts in the USAC National Midget Car Series ranks were short term, Stenhouse earned five victories and was named the series’ 2007 Rookie of the Year. He enters this year’s event with one A-main start to his credit and will look to put the Curb Records entry in the show again in 2012.
Blackhurst, the 2011 POWRi Rookie of the Year, will drive the No. 39b Kitchen Cooked/Spike/Esslinger entry for the CTR/BCI team. Blackhurst looks to make his first Chili Bowl start and will be vying for event Rookie of the Year honors, as well as a shot at the Golden Driller. The 16-year-old is no stranger to racing success as he won the 2010 USAC Ford Focus Midget Midwest Pavement Championship.