While most of his NASCAR competition enjoys a winter break, three time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart will be racing over the course of the next few weeks.
Tony Stewart Racing announced Monday that Stewart will take part in the 27th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. The prestigious Midget racing event begins on Tuesday Jan. 8 and concludes four days later inside the Tulsa Oklahoma Expo Center.
Stewart will join more than 200 drivers attempting to qualify for one of the spots in Saturday’s 50-lap A-Main finale. Each driver will participate in a qualifying program and accumulate points.
“Going back to the Chili Bowl for the first time several years in January of 2012 reminded me of just how tough of an event it really is,” Stewart said in a team statement. “You typically have more than 200 competitors from all over the world battling it out on a quarter-mile dirt track – indoors. The excitement and atmosphere that is contained in the Expo Center is really something you can’t explain and it was great to be part of it again.”
Stewart finished 10th in last year’s finale after not participating in the event for three consecutive seasons (2009-2011). His history at the Chili Bowl however hasn’t always been a positive one. In 2006, weeks after celebrating his 2005 NASCAR title Stewart had a horrific crash during a qualifying race. He suffered an injured right arm. X-rays later showed no broken bones. Other drivers have been injured at the Chili Bowl, some severally. In 2009 Tim McCreadie, the driver who won the Chili Bowl in 2006 after Stewart was injured and a former development driver for Richard Childress Racing, was critically injured during a qualifying race.
This year, Stewart scored a victory in DuQuoin, Illinois in early December and will compete in the Rumble in Fort Wayne Indiana this weekend. Stewart said both events are helping him to prepare for the grueling four days of the Chili Bowl.
“We had a lot of fun racing in DuQuoin” Stewart said. “But it was more than just having some fun. We used that event as an opportunity to shake the car down for the Chili Bowl in January. Last year, I didn’t have a chance to get some laps in the car before I ran my qualifying night in Tulsa. We were starting from scratch and spent some time getting the car where we wanted it. Having run the DuQuoin event before we get to the Chili Bowl this year is going to help us a lot. We’ve got a good baseline of where we’d like to start out for the week and I am completely confident the guys will give me a great car to drive.”
Stewart is one of only five drivers to win the Chili Bowl more than once, and one of 17 different drivers to win it since the inaugural event in 1987. He hopes to add another Chili Bowl title to his resume. Prior to that however Stewart will take the car he refers to as the ‘Munchkin’ to Fort Wayne Friday and Saturday Dec. 29-29. At the Rumble, Stewart has a record setting nine victories and swept the entire program last year.
“Running the Munchkin in the Rumble in Fort Wayne is also a lot of fun for us. We won both nights last year and it’s never easy to win on such a tight, little track. The Rumble and the Chili Bowl are like night and day, as one is pavement and one is a dirt race. But that’s what makes open-wheel racing so much fun. Competing on both surfaces, especially indoors, gives you the best of both worlds. I’m looking forward to both the Rumble in Fort Wayne and the Chili Bowl.”
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