By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Shootout is underway.  The annual racing event kicked off at the QuikTrip Center on Thursday.  Hundreds of drivers from across the country are fighting for the chance to compete in the upcoming Chili Bowl.

Just eight hours after drivers rang in the New Year with Auld Lang Syne, they were on the dirt track hitting speeds up to 60 miles an hour.

The high-speed action got under way on New Year's Day.  It was the first round of qualifying heats for the micro-cars.  The cars are tiny, but they pack a powerful punch.  The little engines churn as much power as a hundred horses.

"You have the best of the best from every state coming here to shoot out to get the coveted Golden Driller," said track worker Kelly Crain.

In fact, 17 states are represented for the first day of action.  Todd Carmichael came from Redding, California.

"It's the biggest race. Biggest race for everybody. It's the middle of the United States, so they come from everywhere," said racer Todd Carmichael.

Track officials say the numbers are down this year by about 100 cars.  They say the economic recession and high fuel prices last year have hurt participation.  But, that's not stopping 17-year-old Kenzie Rustin.

"I think it's exciting. I came to the Chili Bowl last year and I just think these little cars are so much funner to watch," said racer Kenzie Rustin.

Rustin is one of just a handful of female racers and she's competing against some men three times her age.

"I think you have to race harder as a girl. Everyone knows you're a girl, so they don't want to get beat by a girl," said racer Kenzie Rustin.

But, she says when those engines start; everyone's got one thing on their mind:  the guts and the glory of the checkered flag.

In total, more than 850 cars will be racing through the weekend trying to qualify for the Chili Bowl.  The 23rd annual Chili Bowl gets under way on Tuesday, January 13th.