Chili Bowl (race)

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Tony Stewart racing at the 2008 Chili Bowl

The Chili Bowl Midget Nationals is an indoor midget car racing event. It takes place on a 1/4 mile dirt track[1] at the Tulsa Expo Center in January, two weeks after Christmas.[2] NASCAR calls it the "biggest Midget race of the year".[3] It is nicknamed the "Super Bowl of midget racing".[4]


The inaugural Chili Bowl was organized by Lanny Edwards and partner Emmett Hahn [5] It was named after a local company who sponsored the first event.[5] The race has been hosted at the Tulsa Expo Center since it was founded in 1987.[2]


The inaugural 1987 event consisted of 52 midgets competing in the 2-day event.[6] The event now consists of five days of qualifiers for the Saturday night A-main event, with over 341 cars entered for the 2020 race.[7] One fifth of the drivers compete in each qualifying night's event, attempting to qualify for the A-main.[7] Each qualifying night has heat races, dash-type events, and a 25 lap feature.[7][8] Drivers who finish poorly in their heat event in their qualifying night start deep in final night qualifying events and have to finish high in many events to make the A-main field. A driver who started in the lowest "P" event would have to finish high in P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, and B events to reach the A-main. The top two finishers in the qualifying night's feature event plus the top seven finishers the two Saturday night B-main events progress into the Saturday 55-lap A feature field between 24 to 26 cars.

The event also has rewards for winning. The winner of the second-night Vacuworks International Race of Champions between past Chili Bowl winning drivers, drivers nominated by former race champion teams, and the reigning national Midget Driver of the Year will be awarded a guaranteed starting position. If the driver who won the preceding year's Chili Bowl or the Race of Champions fail to qualify, they are added as the 25th and 26th cars in the field.

The National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame uses the event to induct its next class of members.


Home of the Chili Bowl, the Tulsa Expo Center

The event is held at the Tulsa Expo Center (now called the River Spirit Expo), the home of The Golden Driller. It accommodates hundreds of race cars, bleachers for 15,000 fans,[9] and a trade show, all under one roof.[10]

The clay which once covered the adjacent fairgrounds is used for the event. The quarter mile indoor track is not affected by adverse weather or drying from the wind or sun.[9]


Drivers in other series who come from a midget car background frequently race in the event. The 2007 competitors included NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, Justin Allgaier, J. J. Yeley, A. J. Fike, Josh Wise, Kasey Kahne, and Jason Leffler, World of Outlaws sprint car drivers Terry McCarl, Tim McCreadie, Danny Lasoski, and Sammy Swindell, NHRA drag racing champions Cruz Pedregon and Gary Scelzi,[11] IndyCar drivers A. J. Foyt IV, Tom Bigelow and Billy Boat, and numerous USAC racers.[12] Drivers in 2008 came from 29 American states, Canada, and Australia.[9]

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, a two-time winner of the event, said,

This is the only place that you can take the best Midget drivers from USAC and Badger [Midget Auto Racing Association], and guys in the Rocky Mountain Midget Association, guys from USAC Sprint Cars and Silver Crown Cars and the World of Outlaws, all the best in dirt open-wheel racing. Those drivers are all at one place for the weekend, and when you've got [all those] guys competing for just the 24 starting spots in the A-Main, you have some of the best racing that you're going see all year all in one week at the Chili Bowl.[7]

USAC Triple Crown winner Dave Darland said, "You've got guys from all over the world. New Zealand, Australia, NASCAR, NHRA, Indy Cars -- you know, there's just all sorts of different competition there, all sorts of different levels of drivers."[5]

List of A-Main Winners[edit]

2005 winner Tracy Hines
1987 winner Rich Vogler

The A-Main feature was originally a 50-lap main event. In 2012, following a family domestic violence incident that killed driver Donnie Ray Crawford III, who was participating in the event and was leaving for the venue to participate in Saturday's races when the incident occurred, and was to have attended the University of Oklahoma the next week, the race was expanded to 55 laps (his car number). Drivers with multiple wins include five-time winner Sammy Swindell, Sammy's son Kevin Swindell with four wins, three-time winner Christopher Bell, and two-time winners Dan Boorse, Tony Stewart, Cory Kruseman and Rico Abreu. [2] The winning driver wins a trophy dubbed the "Golden Driller" after the 76-foot (23 m) statue outside the building.[5]


  1. ^ "Chili Bowl Nationals | The Official Website for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire". Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  2. ^ a b c d "Chili Bowl Midget National". SCRA Fan. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  3. ^ "Tony Stewart Racing ready to defend Chili Bowl title". NASCAR. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  4. ^ "Leffler hopes experience equals Chili Bowl victory". NASCAR. 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  5. ^ a b c d "Chili Bowl has different meanings, same prestige". NASCAR. 2008-01-07. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  6. ^ Wheatley, Lonnie (2008-12-08). "20th Annual Chili Bowl Entries Unveiled!". Speedway Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  7. ^ a b c d "Dirt-track legends among talented Chili Bowl drivers". NASCAR. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  8. ^ "Stewart still fighting for berth in Chili Bowl main". NASCAR. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  9. ^ a b c Miller, Tim (2008-01-10). "Chili Bowl flavour catches hold, even Down Under". The Hamilton Spectator. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  10. ^ Klein, John (January 18, 2010). "Chili Bowl a big boon for Tulsa". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  11. ^ "Chili Bowl often becomes a David vs. Goliath storyline". NASCAR. 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  12. ^ "21st Annual O'Reilly Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Saturday Lineups". Racing 2007-01-13. Archived from the original on 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  13. ^ Hembree, Mike (January 18, 2015). "Rico Abreu wins Chili Bowl with bold pass". USA Today. Retrieved January 19, 2015.

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