Indoor racing at its best
I’m really not sure how to start this week’s column. It’s that time of year where racing events are few and far between so two weeks ago I reported on one of the greatest indoor open-wheeled midget races in the country, the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It was an awesome event! Rico Abreu won with an amazing drive to the front to claim his second Golden Driller Trophy in a row.
The problem was — it was last year’s race run in January of 2016, not 2017. I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t catch this at the time. I don’t get to travel to many of these events due to the travel costs and time constraints that I have. Many of you know I hold down a full-time job and that I’m the pastor at Canaan Baptist Church in Mill Creek.
The reasons I do this column each week are to help others share in the passion I have for motorsports and report on races, drivers and teams that make this sport so interesting and exciting. I knew the Chili Bowl runs in early January and when I came in from work I noticed that it was being broadcast. So I sat down with my note pad and computer and began to watch the event. Not once did they mention this was a rebroadcast of the event, no banners or ads for this year’s event, etc.
I’m not making excuses. It’s just what happened. I want to apologize to you my readers and the newspaper for my mistake and especially to the fans of Bryan Clausen. Bryan drove a tremendous event last year finishing second; however, in a sprint car race in August of this past year he lost his life. It ran through my mind as I watched the race that he had died but there were several open-wheeled drivers who were tragically taken from us last year and, again, I should have caught that. Now that brings us to this week’s column.
I guess this is what makes life interesting, we are capable of mistakes. It’s that human side of motorsports and life that keeps me coming back for more.
This year’s edition of the Chili Bowl ran last Saturday night and it continued to be one of those bucket-list events. The River City Expo Event Center was filled with 375 race teams and a packed house of spectators. Racing action began on Tuesday evening with qualifying and preliminary heats and the letter-designated mains to set the 24-car field for the 55-lap main event on Saturday.
Several teams were running decals to support Bryan Clausen’s family charity, which brings attention to signing up to be an organ donor. Through Bryan’s choice to do this, five people were given either the gift of life or a better quality of life through his death. I personally believe this is a wonderful thing to do and all it takes is making sure they check that box on your driver’s license when you get them or renew them.
Young racer Justin Grant set fast time in qualifying on the fast, smooth, quarter-mile track. Track crews led by Tony Stewart did another outstanding job keeping the surface racy and smooth. You could literally run high or low and make passes all night.
Several top drivers missed the main event this year. Kyle Larson, Donny Schatz, Tim McCreedie, and Joey Saldana all found themselves part of the crowd for feature time. There was a new lady racer among the 80-plus rookies in this year’s event. Holly Shelton drove her Toyota-powered racer to 15th place in her C main. This young lady is going to be someone to watch in the upcoming years. Monster Energy Cup NASCAR star Kyle Larson recommended her to Toyota as part of their driver development program and she was impressive for her rookie outing to the Chili Bowl.
Last year’s champ Rico Abreu struggled all week with spins and crashes. He did, however, start the feature as last-place promoter’s option in 25th position. He again wowed the fans as he fearlessly raced his way to seventh place before being involved in yet another accident. He restarted in last place with 10 laps remaining and raced his way back to finish in 11th place. I can’t help but wonder if the news he received this past week that he had lost his Camping World truck series ride had an effect on his focus.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 16th in the A main. NASCAR Camping World truck series driver Christopher Bell once again had a fast car and wouldn’t be denied the win this time. He drove a very good race and was able to be the first Oklahoma native to win since 1994, when Andy Hillenburg won the event. That was a year before Christopher was born. Daryn Pittman finished a close second. Pole sitter Justin Grant was third. Tanner Thorson and Jake Swanson rounded out the top five.
Another bucket list event happens this weekend for car guys and gals. The Barrett-Jackson Collector car auction kicked off on Tuesday and runs through Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona.
There will be millions of dollars spent on the finest collector cars on the planet. This event is covered live on television and it’s amazing to see what these cars go for. Plus, millions are raised for various nonprofit organizations and charities through donated cars.
This week’s left turns come as the cars leave the building to their new owners. I’ll be watching and Daytona is only a few weeks away. I’ll try my best to keep you updated. Until next time, remember — at the end of the stage at Barrett-Jackson there’s another left turn.