First off Louisiana had NO entires again. Dang. Guess I'll have to live through others here....
(At least we have Jason Johnson down in Austrailia anyway!)
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OK, midget aces Dave Darland, Shane Cottle, Davey Ray and Brad Kuhn make up the first two rows of tonight's A main. Then it gets interesting....
Tony Stewart goes off inside row 3 with Illinois up and comer Justin Allgaier of Springfield in his second Chili Bowl A starting outside. Justin drives just about anything already and I'm not sure of his age Maybe 20 or 21. Dirt Late Models, ARCA Speedway cars, sprints and midgets -- a star in the making??? Maybe!
My pick to win after watching him Thursday is JJ Yeley and he starts row four. After a nasty flip while running away with his heat race -- didn't see a reason why either, he was in the middle of the track and didn't hit anything -- he came from the back twice to win peliminaries and then came from the back to a third place finish in a 25-lap A main to lock into tonight's 50-lap A main. The car is a Bondio #47X. They already have at least 2 Chili-Bowl wins with Corey Kruseman who will start 14th in a B main. JJ's the man tonight!
Wild card: The first Broken Arrow driver in qualifying is Donnie Ray Crawford who starts tenth in the A main. The teenager-rookie had a great Tulsa Shootout two weeks ago where he won two classes and finished second in a 130-car Multi A field behind fellow Okie Kevin Bayer (who starts 3rd in a F main tonight). This is Donnie's kind of racing. While I've printed his name dozens of times as a mini-sprint winner from tracks like Port City, Will Rogers and I-44, his first ASCS starts this past year were something too and now he has one of the best rides at the Chili Bowl. Watch out for Donnie, one of the best hopes -- but certainly not the only one -- the locals have!
Another is definitely Brady Bacon -- another Broken Arrow racer -- who will have to come from row 2 of the C main. When you're talking THESE 260 cars and you're in the top 48, you've already had a great week!
Back to the A though, another rookie Gary "Bubba" Altig from Illinois who won Tuesday's Rookie Night, locked in to the 11th starting position last night. Darland got the jump on Altig at the start last night but Stewart and Matt Neely were the only drivers able to get by him over the 25-lap A main. Looks like a another real deal there as well! He starts beside another guy with tons of open wheel experience as well as his NASCAR starts, Jason Leffler.
Think midwest guys know how to drive midgets? How about nine of the 12 A-main lock-ins coming from either Illinois or Indiana and they sweep the first three rows!
Former ASCS drivers and current 360 Sprint Car racers are well represented this year too though. Kansan Jason Martin who will start the year off as a 24-year old going for the World of Outlaws' Rookie of the Year title, goes from the pole of the first B main. Memphis has representation in that race as well as Olive Branch, Mississippi racer Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. starts the B from 13th. Top SIX make the A-main! The other B has OKC's Wayne Johnson -- a former ASCS National Champion -- on the front row along with national sprint stars Terry McCarl and Danny Lasoski in the field as well as 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines who starts beside Johnson from the pole. Johnson went from the F main to the A as a Chili Bowl rookie last year!
Others include Missouri's Joey Montgomery (C main) & Jesse "The Rockett" Hockett (C main), Nebraska's Billy Alley (E main), Okies Foster Landon (E main), World of Outlaw star Daryn Pittman (F main) & another former ASCS National Champion Zack Chappell (H main), another Kansas WoO rookie candidate Tony Bruce, Jr. (G main), and Texan and defending ASCS Sooner Region champ Sam Hafertepe, Jr. who will also start the year with the WoOs as well (H main).
Can't talk about the Memphis area without mentioning their most famous racing family with a tremondus Chili Bowl history, the Swindells from Germantown, Tennessee. Sammy starts his drive for five (for those who don't know, he's won the Chili Bowl four times!) from 9th starting position in the 2nd C main. My pick for hard-luck driver so far is Sammy's son Kevin Swindell who had a very fast #39 on Thursday night. He easily won his heat from 4th starting place but then was collected twice in his subsequent qualifying races by other's problems. He then gets clipped in his B main on the first lap, gets a flat and the crew's not ready to change it for some reason. He catches a caution but it's too late. He's already one lap down. He drives from the back to fifth place on the track but will start 11th in an E main as a result of being one-lap down. If anyone can repeat his famous father's alphabet soup drive to win this thing this year then Kevin's may have the best shot at doing so!
The first Texan from qualifying? Ronnie Burke, Jr. from League City. Anybody got some background for me on Ronnie? He starts 7th in the first C main so he made 55th in qualifying out of 267 cars. So far, he's beat out over 200 of the best drivers in the country! One of our panhandle open-wheel & modified young gun stars Conner Pullen from Amarillo rolls from the front row of an E-main (it starts today with twin K mains!). Top 4 tranfer from the Ks through the Es. Then only the top THREE transfer from a D and then the top FIVE from the C. Southern States Midget Champion Aaron Kirk from Conroe goes off in a F main as does Temple's Paul White -- the former USAC Silver Crown champ. Houston's AJ Foyt IV and Roland Ayo in the same G main, Sunnyvale's Hafertepe in that H and Kaufman's Johnny Murdock in an I main along with rookies Doug McCune (J main) from Fort Worth, John Ricketts from Burleson (K main), Brian Carter (K main) from Frisco (Stanford country!) and Matt Dewitt (K main) from Houston round out the Texas starters. No Gary Wright this year. GW's made an A main or two before.
Arkansas has two drivers. One is Kurt Blackaby from Bentonville in an I main. The other is Farmington's Rafe Essary who runs the OCRS and WOW some in Missouri and Oklahoma. Rafe ran well on Tuesday's "rookie" night and was challenging for the lead of the A main when his motor blew. He starts on the front row of a J main as a result.
Want to see more of the future of Oklahoma racing? Look at the front row of the 2nd D main! Newcastle's 14-year old Trey Robb and Collinsville's 17-year old Dustin Morgan. Robb won a D last year and was the youngest Saturday Chili Bowl feature winner ever at age 13. Morgan's having a much better Chili Bowl so far this year than last. Already mentioned Crawford and Bacon along with veterans Johnson, Pittman and Landon but there's also former OCRS champion Mike Goodman (C main) from Tulsa who won a Saturday B and won Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year last year. Great year for Okies at the Chili Bowl last year! Some others lining up this year include: Evan Sewell (C main), Jenks, Jonathan Beason (C main), Broken Arrow (again), Leon Bacon (D main) (Brady's dad!), Broken Arrow, Matt Sherill (D main), Tulsa, Matt Covington (D main), Glenpool, Cody Brewer (E main), Choctaw, Jasiel Randolf (E main), Tulsa, Bayer (F main), Broken Arrow & Michelle Decker (G main), Gothrie. Being the home state, there's even more naturally including Dex Eaton (I main), Owasso & legendary Shane Carson (I Main), Yukon and several rookies including two more from Broken Arrow. (Told ya!, there's something in the water there!)
And lets not forget those Modified guys!!! Randy Timms of OKC is up to a G main start this year. He lines up 11th and needs to get to at least 4th! Tri-State Speedway's 2006 Spooker modified winner Chad Wheeler of Muskogee starts from the pole of the 2nd H main!! Wheeler's a Chili Bowl rookie but he's run the Shootouts before. And next but certainly not least, Eddie Martin of Stilwell. The only one of the three who had to run on Tuesday's rookie night. His fifth place finish in a B main that night -- because it was rookie night -- starts him back in fifth spot of the first J main. The winner of the A main that night by the way, is starting 11th in the big race tonight (Altig) so, I'd say there were a pretty good crop of "rookies" there and Eddie never drove a sprint car, midget, min-sprint or go-kart for that matter. He's always been a Modified-Late Model-Street Stock guy. Good luck to all three!
Speaking of Late Model guys, Michigan's Jeep Van Wormer starts 4th in a D main, Iowa's Brian Birkhoffer starts ninth in a F main and the defending race champion Tim McCreadie from New York state starts 10th in the other F main. McCreadie had nothing but problems on Thursday night but his car owner gets a provisional of some kind so he may make the A anyway, not sure....
Want more diversity? Drag racer Cruz Pedregon is back (12th in a E main!). Billy Pauch Jr. from New Jersey -- the son of the famous east coast big block modified and sprint car racer starts fifth in a D main. Want guts? Pennsylvania's Ray Bull scared the crap out of some (us anyway!) went he went flipping wildly up the track entrance ramp on Thursday. Thank's to track officials for keeping that area clear of folks because it sure looks crowded over there sometimes from across the track. Bull runs an F today. And how about California's Wally Pankratz who flipped hard after taking the checker flagged on Thursday night after making a B main. Wally's not a spring chicken anymore (I can't find his age anywhere!) but he's tough! That wreck knocked him out but they repaired the car and he was back out for his B!!!! He goes from a F main as well. His 36-year old daughter Randi Pankratz starts from the pole of a G. She led 22 laps of Tuesday's A feature for Chili Bowl rookies before finishing fifth but she's got some USAC midget experience out west too.
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