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Chili Bowl: 'Coolest race of the year'


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:cool Neck-car fans rejoice! It's on Pay-per-view! For the first time ever, race fans can watch the prestigious Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals featuring a who's who of racing stars, including NASCAR's Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne, who'll battle aboard 800-hp midgets for one of the most coveted trophies in motorsport....

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart returns to Daytona International Speedway next week for his first Daytona 500 test in four years, but the two-time NASCAR Cup champion currently calls Tulsa home. Stewart has been there since Tuesday preparing for the Chili Bowl Nationals, and J.J. Yeley says the extra time will help Stewart throw some weight around as defending champion of the premier midget race.

"Well, that's if they got him to fit in the car," Yeley said with a mischievous chuckle. "Winters generally aren't very good for Tony, and these are small cars." The event, though, has grown into one of the biggest in the open-wheel ranks. The 22nd edition of the Chili Bowl will draw a record 286 entries and a sold-out crowd of about 9,000 to the QuikTrip Center in Tulsa. Friday's 10:30 p.m. qualifications will be streamed live at NASCAR.com and Foxsports.com, and Saturday's elimination races and final will be telecast live on HBO pay-per-view.

Besides Stewart and Yeley, the NASCAR presence includes Kasey Kahne, Jason Leffler, Bryan Clauson, Bobby East and Josh Wise— all of whom started their careers racing Sprint and Midget cars against many of the contenders in the Chili Bowl field. The lineup includes four-time winner Sammy Swindell, World of Outlaws stars Joey Saldana and Danny Lasoski and USAC champions Dave Darland and Tracy Hines.

Even the NHRA will be represented by drag racing champions Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) and Gary Scelzi (Top Fuel), helping bolster Stewart's assertion that the Chili Bowl is racing's most diverse all-star showcase.

"It's the coolest race of the year," said Stewart, who also won in 2002. "Just to be one of the 24 cars that makes the 'A' main after being in a field of 280 cars, that's pretty much an honor. There's so many great champions from so many parts of the country. The pressure is very intense."

The action rarely stops on a quarter-mile dirt track inside a venue normally used as a rodeo arena and livestock hall. The scads of entrants are whittled through a progression of 20-lap heats that fill the 24 spots in the "A" main at 10 p.m. Saturday. The final will be preceded by 10 races in 10 hours to set the field.

Yeley, who was scheduled to arrive Wednesday in Tulsa after testing at Daytona the previous three days, has qualified for the "A" main in six of nine attempts and once had to advance through eight races to qualify.

"It's by far one of the toughest races of the year of any kind," said the 31-year-old, who placed a career-best second last year. "I've passed 71 cars in those heats, made it to the 'A' main, started last and finished third. It can be done. It's fun, but not that fun."

Yeley, who has been attending the Chili Bowl since his youth, said the indoor race is always fun for fans.

"It's basically a party where a race broke out, because it doesn't matter if it's raining, snowing or whatever outside," said Yeley, who will take advantage of the festive atmosphere to raffle off his helmet from the event and a 56-inch DLP TV for charity. "You walk in, it's 70 degrees. You can get a margarita on the way to the pits. It's a ball of fun for a week."

But the ultimate thrill would be a Golden Driller award. Yeley said Stewart ranks his Chili Bowl trophies behind only his Indianapolis Motor Speedway wins.

"It'd mean a ton," Yeley said. "The Chili Bowl would be the pinnacle of anything, especially open wheel."

Woohooo...should be some great open wheel racing! :3gears:

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