ARDC Drivers and Teams Take Aim at Chili Bowl

Felton DE – Drivers from the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) stage some of the fiercest wingless dirt-track midget races in the country all summer long in their home base of Central Pennsylvania; also venturing out as far as Virginia and North Carolina. All this tooth and nail competition leaves the ARDC’s best locked and loaded for an annual assault on the Chili Bowl Nationals. Every form of racing has it’s signature event, the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 are the Holy Grail for big time racing in America. For midget racers all over the country, the big prize can be summed up in two words, Chili Bowl. The 22nd edition of the Chili Bowl Nationals will take place from Jan. 8-12, 2008 on the 1/4 mile Tulsa Expo Raceway inside the newly re-named Quik Trip Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The ARDC drivers who do so well competing against their own, want to get out and test themselves against the best drivers in the country — not just from midget racing — but from all forms of motor sport. A quick scan of past winners of the Chili Bowl includes names like; Nextel Cup Champ Tony Stewart, World of Outlaws Late Model Champ and Dirt Modified star Tim McCreadie. World of Outlaws legend Sammy Swindell and USAC icon Rich Vogler have also tasted victory at the Chili Bowl.

As only seems fitting, the ARDC squad will be led into battle at the Chili Bowl by recently-crowned 2-time Champion, Andy Martin. Martin left an indelible mark on last year’s edition of the Chili Bowl with ferocious qualifying “charge through the alphabet” in the event’s seemingly endless series of alphabet mains. In a week long event that typically draws 200+ cars, to go into the final night with a chance to make the final cut of 24 in the “A-main” is a career accomplishment for a midget driver. Martin finished fourth in the second “F” Main, which was won by P.J. Jones. He finished third in the “E” behind Brad Loyet and Cole Whitt. The next stop was a second place finish to Dustin Morgan in the “D”.

The night ended disappointingly with a 19th place finish in the second “B-main”. Disappointing until you read the list of names of the competitors in the finishing order. How about Tracy Hines, Jerry Coons, Jr., Cory Kruseman, Brady Bacon, Terry McCarl, Danny Lasoski and Levi Jones? That’s a “Race of Champions” on any other night. At the Chili Bowl it’s a B-main.

“We’d like to make the A-main this year,” Martin said in a phone conversation. “This is our third try and we haven’t made it yet. Hopefully we can get our business done early in the week and won’t have to run as many mains as we did last year. Coming up through the alphabet did get us noticed, so I guess if we had to do it again it wouldn’t be all bad.”

“Making the A-main at the Chili Bowl is almost like winning the Chili Bowl — there’s so many great cars and drivers that the odds are stacked against you,” Martin emphasized.

Martin sounded rested and ready to go when discussing off-season preparations. “We’re taking the 21 car, it’s the only one we’ve ever run there. We’re getting it lettered tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have the motor back to install next week,” Martin shared.

Martin was intense in describing racing conditions at Tulsa Expo Raceway. “That track tests everything you have,” Martin stated emphatically. “They keep the show moving, but they’re not afraid to stop and groom the track if it needs it. There’s times when there’s two grooves. You can sail it in up high, or other times you’re lifting halfway down the straightaway. I sat in the third turn grandstand and watched Tim McCreadie win the race pulling the front wheels off the ground coming off, lifting halfway down the straight, and then putting around the bottom while other guys threw it in up high. They couldn’t get around him,” Martin explained.

Another driver taking his third shot at the Chili Bowl is Frank Polimeda. Polimeda finished fourth in the ARDC standings in 2007 and scored his first two career victories along the way. Polimeda’s “Glory Days” at the Chili Bowl came in 2005. “I was just getting started in midgets and we went to Tulsa with Lou Zrinski’s car,” Polimeda remembered. “I made the A-main on Wednesday and finished 13th.”

From there, Polimeda’s story takes an agonizing twist. “I made it all the way to the B on Saturday night. I passed Tyler Walker for the last transfer spot and the caution came out. The scoring went back to the previous lap. We finished on a green-white-checker and he blocked like crazy, so I missed the A by one spot,” Polimeda shared. Missing the Chili Bowl A main by one spot, was Polimeda crushed? “With my limited experience, we were happy with how we ran,” he summed.

Polimeda expects a challenge when he hits the Tulsa bullring, “The track is so much smaller than what we usually run with ARDC,” Polimeda explained. “There’s so much emphasis on passing with passing points on the line, that the racing is really physical with alot of beating and banging. It’s critical to pass as many cars as you can, it’s hard and aggressive racing. The competition is so tough, it’s a who’s who of racing down there.”

There is no trick equipment in the Polimeda arsenal for the Chili Bowl, he’s taking the same Neptune Research Spike/Mopar that he ran all season with ARDC. “We just freshened it up, it’s our normal package — the tried and true. I’m looking forward to it. This will be the best chance I’ve had.”

Eric Heydenreich had a stellar year on the ARDC circuit. He also picked up his first two career wins and finished second in season points. It will be his maiden voyage at the Chili Bowl, as he teams up with ARDC VP and car owner Lou Zrinski to run his no. 10 car. Heydenreich looks to an unusual source to draw experience for his first shot. “We’ve run the 1/4 mile inner oval at Bridgeport, that’s the closest thing in size to the Tulsa track, so we’ll base everything off of that,” Heydenreich said. Heydenreich set realistic goals for his first attempt, “We’re gonna try it and see what happen, just have some fun,” he summed.

2007 ARDC Rookie of the Year Ryan Smith is heading to the Chili Bowl with his normal ride, the Burke Trucking 54. “We’re gonna go with our normal stuff that we ran this year,” Smith said by phone. Smith showed his usual versatility by doing a phone interview while flagging races at the family-owned S&S Raceway!

“We’re gonna prep the car and go down there,” Smith said. “Then we’ll re-do everything for next season after the Chili Bowl.” Smith also set realistic goals for the race. “We’re just gonna go out there and see how everything goes,” he said. “There are so many variables, I’m not even sure how you qualify!” Smith joked.

The Bryan Kobylarz wrenched Two Dogs Racing team is headed to the Chili Bowl for another shot. Kobylarz was pleased with his team’s state of readiness as he spoke phone from his shop. “This is the most prepared I’ve ever been for a race. The cars are done and freshened, and I’m installing a motor right now,” Kobylarz shared.

The Two-Dogs Team heads to Tulsa with two “Young-Gun” chauffeurs. The first being Randy Monroe, Jr, who will wheel his normal ride, the H&B Railroad/W.O. Grubb Crane Rentals no. 27. This is the ride that Monroe took to two main event wins and a top-10 finish in points in his rookie season with ARDC.

The other driver is Billy Pauch Jr. who had several strong runs at Big Diamond Raceway with the Two Dogs no.49 in 2007. BPG Racing comes on board as a tire sponsor for Pauch Jr. at the Chili Bowl.

Kobylarz cars are complete right down to the cosmetics. “Bruce Buckwalter (BDB Graphics) just finished lettering the cars and they look great,” Kobylarz said. Kobylarz outlook on the 2008 version of the Chili Bowl was straight-forward. “We just want to improve on last year’s performance.”

This year’s ARDC participation in the Chili Bowl looks to be stronger than ever. Steve Buckwalter is now a part-time competitor with ARDC, but he is a full-time threat at the Chili Bowl. A 5th place finish in the 2007 B-main put him in the prestigious Chili Bowl A-main where he finished 11th, just behind 2005 Chili Bowl Champ Tracy Hines.

Top-10 finishing rookie Nick Wean is slated to go along with Carey Becker. Additional possible entries unconfirmed at the time of this report could come from Michelle and Tracy Miller as well as 6-time ARDC Champ Ray Bull.

Share Button