Friday and Saturday night Chili Bowl recaps
Typically Chili Bowl Nationals officials schedule several “big name” drivers to race in the Friday preliminary night program, and the 30th annual edition was no different. 2014 Chili Bowl winner Bryan Clauson, 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie, and 2014 World of Outlaws champion Daryn Pittman posted heat race wins. Other heat race winners included Kasey Kahne, the 2000 USAC national midget champion and World of Outlaws team owner who now races NASCAR hardtops, 2008 Chili Bowl champion Damion Gardner, and World of Outlaws veteran Jac Haudenschild also posted Friday night heat races wins.
Old time racers were heartened by Chris Windom’s appearance in Jack Yeley’s #1B Volkswagen powered midget which harkened back to the “glory days” of 1970’s and 1980’s midget racing. While the #1B was able to keep up with its modern competition, unfortunately the Volkswagen engine dropped a cylinder late in its heat race and the entry was scratched for the rest of the evening.
The evening’s program was spiced up by Tony Stewart’s decision to enter the backstretch stands to confront an abusive fan who had yelled at and made obscene gestures towards Stewart who was working as a track preparation volunteer. Video of the confrontation spread quickly via social media, and the Tulsa World newspaper reported Sunday that the Tulsa County Sherriff’s department was investigating the incident after the abusive fan was identified as Sherriff’s Department Corporal Kyle Hess. A Tulsa County Sherriff’s Department’s representative indicated Hess who was reportedly intoxicated at the time of the incident was being investigated for inappropriate behavior.
In the Friday night feature, Bryan Clauson in the Dolling Machine entry led all 25 laps and was seriously challenged to score a clean sweep for the night, as he had also won his qualifying race.
On Saturday night, there was some controversy after five-time Chili Bowl champion Sammy Swindell suffered a flat tire and spun out of a transfer position in the ‘D’ feature and Chili Bowl officials announced that Swindell would be awarded a previous winner’s provisional starting position at the tail of the 'A' feature.
As always the opening ceremonies for the 30th annual Chili Bowl were memorable, with the introduction of the race’s grand marshal, 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve ‘King’ Kinser before the Parade of States and presentation of the National Anthem. A planned video tribute to 4-time Chili Bowl winner Kevin Swindell injured last year in a sprint car crash experienced technical difficulties and was not shown.
The two ‘B’ features were won by 2104 USAC national midget champion Tracy Hines and NASCAR hardtop racer Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with the top six finishers in each ‘B’ heat race advancing to the tail of the 55-lap ‘A’ feature.
At the drop of the green flag, pole sitter Bryan Clauson powered to a big lead chased by Zach Daum and defending champion Rico Abreu. After the teams made adjustments to the remaining cars during a late race red flag period caused after a fan fell out the grandstand and was injured, Abreu in the Toyota powered Keith Kunz Racing midget roared past Clauson to post a popular back-to back Chili Bowl victory. As of this publication, the identity and medical condition of the injured fan remains unknown.