Chili Bowl Entries Surpass 300
Story By: Bryan Hulbert/Chili Bowl
Photos By: Tommy Hein
TULSA, Okla. – Exceeding 300 entries for the fifth consecutive year, a melting pot of talent is set to converge on Tulsa, Okla., for the 33rd Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire on Jan. 14-19.
“When the Chili Bowl started, we had just a few over 50 cars that showed up and maybe a couple thousand people that came out to watch. I think back to those days and look at what it has become, and I’m amazed,” said Chili Bowl co-founder Emmett Hahn.
Hahn explained that during the early days of the Chili Bowl most of the entires came from sprint car and midget racers. The talent of NASCAR, Indy and beyond hadn’t found the Chili Bowl yet.
“It was a deal where the sprint car guys were coming in and challenging the midget drivers and you could go through that entry list and pick them out,” Hahn said. “Of course, Sammy Swindell he was an Outlaw guy and guys like Kevin Doty, they were the Midget guys. Then we had the non-wing racers in there like Jimmy Sills, and eventually, this kid named Tony Stewart started coming around. Now, I look at the list of drivers and it’s everything from the street stock guy to NHRA, NASCAR, Indy, Outlaws, late models, modifieds and even off-road trucks drivers, and it isn’t any dog and pony show. Every one of them is serious about trying to win the Chili Bowl.”
Currently north of 320 entries, the mix of talent is dawn from over 30 states and five countries. Among those entered is the reigning back-to-back Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Champion, Christopher Bell. Wheeling the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian No. 71w, the car will be the same one that Christopher drove to victory in the 2018 event.
While Bell goes for the hat-trick, he is not the only past champion in the field, or for that matter, on the same team.
Rico Abreu, who topped the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in 2015 and 2016, will seek his third title in the KKM/Curb-Agajanian No. 97. While both will be trying to earn that third Golden Driller for their Trophy Case, a win by any of the 11 entries under the KKM banner, which includes Kyle Larson, Logan Seavey, Holley Hollan, Jesse Colwell, Tanner Carrick, Sam Johnson, Spencer Bayston, and another to be announced soon, would bring Keith Kunz his eighth victory as a car owner.
Also, among the list of Chili Bowl Champions is Sammy Swindell. The man with the most wins as a driver, Sammy’s five victories was nearly matched by his son, Kevin, who was the first to win back-to-back Chili Bowls before creating a dynasty of four running from 2010 to 2013 before an accident in a sprint car in 2015 took him out of competition. While no longer behind the seat, Kevin will field his No. 39 machine with California’s Ryan Bernal behind the wheel.
In all, seven drivers entered have held the Golden Driller. Damion Gardner will look to regain the glory he had in 2008 as he again takes the wheel for Klatt Motorsports.
Moving into a Jim Neuman baked machine for the 2019 event, 2018 World 100 Champion, Tim McCreadie, will bring a throwback design dedicated to his father.
Joining with Wilke-Pac Motorsports, Tracy Hines will look to claim a second Golden Driller for the team he parked in victory lane in 2005. Winning in 1990, John Heydenreich will also be in the field.