STAMFORD Conn. – Among the 335 drivers entered for next week’s 30th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at the Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway, Chris Dyson is the only one who has won a pair of professional sports car racing championships.
Back for a second year at the Chili Bowl in a Spike/Esslinger midget fielded by two-time Chili bowl champion Cory Kruseman, Dyson is being supported in his effort in America’s largest indoor dirt-racing event by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff.
“Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff is honored to partner with veteran driver Chris Dyson at this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals,” said Dave Savoca, president of Smokey Mountain Chew. “Chris is a talented driver on the track, and an even better spokesperson for our brand off the track. The Chili Bowl is known as the ‘Super Bowl’ of midget racing, with drivers from all over the world, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about making our debut at this prestigious event with Chris and Kruseman Motorsports. With over 300 drivers entered in the event, the Chili Bowl is a huge platform to market our tobacco-free, nicotine-free chew. I’m confident Chris will be a great ambassador for our brand and stand out as one of the stars to beat from the wave of the green flag to the checkers.”
Dyson, who won American Le Mans Series driving championships in 2003 and 2011, last year made select starts in sprint cars and midgets whenever his responsibilities as lead driver for Bentley Team Dyson Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge permitted.
“I’m very pleased to be representing Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff at the Chili Bowl,” said Dyson, who plans an expanded open-wheel racing schedule for 2016. “It’s a great option for people who want to quit or reduce their consumption of smokeless tobacco. I’m a big believer in Smokey Mountain and its mission. I want to help get the word out by getting my #16k running up front.
“It’s going to be a really competitive week with such a big entry,” Dyson said. “At the Chili Bowl you are racing against a ‘who’s who’ of dirt open-wheel racing. It’s become a truly national racing event, with a lot of interest, and all the really good guys will be there. I’m proud to begin building my relationship with the Smokey Mountain folks on such a prominent stage and I’m grateful to Cory Kruseman for once again giving me a great opportunity in Tulsa.”
The Chili Bowl is held over the course of five days, from Jan. 12 through Jan. 16. Racing takes place on a clay quarter-mile oval track, specially constructed for the event inside the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square. Total attendance at last year’s Chili Bowl was 107,000, with more than 26,000 jamming into the stadium for Saturday’s finale.
Dyson has found veteran dirt-track racer Kruseman a great mentor as he negotiates what is admittedly a steep learning curve in what is for him a fairly new racing discipline. Kruseman has been impressed with Dyson’s progress to date as he builds his dirt-track racing skills.
“Chris came with no preconceptions about racing on dirt and was eager to learn,” Kruseman said, noting that it was helpful that as a boy Dyson’s first racing experience was with karts on a dirt track. “Even though that was more than 20 years ago, it was still in him. He’s taken a smart approach, doing my school and then some advanced practice before he entered any races. Chris’s ability to really focus on the task meant he was able to develop his dirt driving and racing skills quickly even though he was only able to join us part-time. He raced for me last year at the Chili Bowl and did well for a guy who was there for the first time. I’ve seen how much progress he’s made since then and I think that’s going to show in his results next week.”
Dyson also spoke about the challenge last season of dovetailing open-wheel USAC and winged sprint-car and midget racing with his work behind the wheel of the Bentley Team Dyson Racing Continental GT3. According to Dyson, at times it was a bit hectic, but highly fulfilling to compete with such frequency and in such diverse machinery and environments.
“One weekend, we did Pirelli World Challenge qualifying early in the morning at the Long Beach Grand Prix, then that same evening I was racing my 410 sprint car 80 miles east at Perris Auto Speedway,” Dyson said. “Then it was back to Long Beach for the PWC race the next day (in which he would break the track race lap record). And we were alternating events at short-track ovals and road courses like that all throughout the season. It was fantastically busy, and it was frequently powered by sheer adrenaline. I think I ended up doing something upwards of 40 races last year. Nothing keeps you sharp like competition; I’m hopeful for another equally thrilling racing season this year and having Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff on board with Cory’s team is a great start for 2016.”