They say if you build it they will come. And that’s exactly what Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards did in 1987…in Oklahoma. Held each year in January, in the heart of Tulsa, Hahn and Edwards’ vision has morphed into the Super Bowl of midget races, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire.
Just how do they pull this off you might ask? With around 10 trucks, hauling 700 loads, of around 7,000 yards of dirt. In addition to several bulldozers, several weeks of preparation and countless man-hours. Every year thousands of dirt-track fans flock to the quarter-mile indoor (yes, indoor) clay oval at the River Spirit Expo Center to watch the best-of-the-best go wheel-to-wheel to claim the famed, Golden Driller trophy.
Hahn and Edwards held their first event over a two-day period with 52 midgets entered. It was the late, great, Rich Vogler who took the inaugural checkered flag and now in its 32nd year, the Chili Bowl is shaping up to be better than ever! Current entries sit at just over 300 with drivers such as Sammy Swindell, Tim McCreadie and Kasey Kahne strapping in to try and claim victory.
Will the 2017 winner, Christopher Bell, become the fifth two-time winner? Will Swindell add to his win column? What will the flip count be? Find out by tuning in to LIVE coverage of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire on MAVTV and the Lucas Oil Racing TV app for mobile devices, Saturday night, January 13, 2018, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. You can also follow along all week at racinboys.com, up to the LIVE TV coverage. For more information, visit www.chilibowl.com.
Until then, here are five things you might not know about the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl presented by General Tire:
- 1. It’s Grown - The Chili Bowl was the vision of Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards who held the first event in 1987. The car count was 52 and the winners purse a mere $4,000. While the first event lost money, Hahn and Edwards stuck to their guns and today’s largest indoor race, with well over 300 entries, pays approximately $10,000 to win. In many racing circles, the Golden Driller trophy is one of the most coveted.
- 2. Not Your Normal Race Track – The River Spirit Expo Center is truly one-of-a-kind. Built in 1966 to house the International Petroleum Exposition, the facility is one of the largest clearspan structures in the world with 448,500 square feet of floor space. In case you’re doing the math, that’s equal to 10.5 acres or seven football fields….all under one roof! Outside the venue stands the Golden Driller. A symbol of the oil industry, the famous statue stands 76 feet tall and weighs 43,5000 pounds. And by the way, you can’t swap shoes with him as he wears a shoe size of 393DDD. In case you were wondering, this is what the Golden Driller trophy is modeled off of.
- 3. Why Is It Called the Chili Bowl? – Bobby Berryhill, a Tulsa businessman, owned a food service company named the “Original Chili Bowl” and came on board as the sponsor of the 1987 Midget Nationals. The company made pre-mix and pre-made chili for distribution nationwide. Fast forward four years, Keebler buys the Original Chili Bowl, dropped the sponsorship, but the name stuck. And don’t forget to pick up a chili Frito pie at the concession stand when you’re there!
- 4. Who is the Master of the Chili Bowl? – In 31 years there have been 20 different winners. But one man has claimed an all-time high, five Golden Driller trophies. The one, the only, Sammy Swindell. Capturing his first victory in 1989, Swindell’s victories have spanned three decades also winning in ’92, ’96, ’98 and ’09. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the only man second to Swindell is his son, Kevin Swindell who has racked up four victories. Want an even more incredible stat? He claimed all four wins in a row! That’s right, Kevin Swindell claimed victory from 2010 – 2013. Four drivers have parked it in victory lane twice including Corey Kruseman (’00, ’04), Dan Boorse (’99, ’03), Rico Abreu (’15, ’16), and NASCAR champion, Tony Stewart (’02, ’07).
- 5. What Does Tulsa Gain? – The annual event has an estimated $24.4 million economic impact on the local economy according to the Tulsa Regional Chamber. It is estimated that upwards of 70,000 people will attend throughout the week. This is huge plus for local Tulsa businesses in January which is generally a slow time.