TULSA, OKLAHOMA — Race fans say there’s nothing like it anywhere, an indoor track of this size, where Midget race cars jostle for position at close to 100 MPH on the short straightaway.
Jonathan Beason raced on the first night of the 2013 Chili Bowl Nationals.
He came close to winning it all a two years ago.
With a new team, he was still chasing the dream.
“You’ve got to have a fast car but you need to have some luck too. Everybody will tell you the same thing,” he said before the first heats on Tuesday night. “If we can get the luck we’ll be up front.”
Back in 1987, January was the off-season for these car teams.
But Merrit Hahn saw the huge Tulsa Expo Center as an oportunity.
He got a few sponsors together, including a local food producer, “It was chili and right after that it was Super Bowl time,” he recalls.
And the Chili Bowl was born. “I’m just a race car junkie.”
“There’s not another race in the country that brings this kind of talent together,” he said.
“Some people ask how big this building is and I tell them you ought to go with me to pay the rent.”
The event kept growing too. More teams. More cars.
More than 200 of them will race from Tuesday through the Saturday final.
Matt Ward remembers toddling around the pit area when he was a little kid.
The founder, Merrit Hahn, has two grandsons racing midget cars here.
Matt’s draw was for a Thursday night race. “We got two good practice runs in it and it’s pretty well good to go,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
They are the most powerful race cars for their size and weight.
Race fans fill the bleachers for the big names like Tony Stewart who come here every year, and for a singular race, crowded indoors, in the one and only Chili Bowl.