Chili Bowl Pros Gear Up For 28th Annual Year In Green Country
TULSA, Oklahoma - The 28th annual Chili Bowl Nationals won't just be packing stands at Tulsa's Expo Center, it's also expected to fill up restaurants and hotels in Green Country.
Two days before the first checkered flag, drivers and mechanics are prepping their cars. But pretty soon, the quiet sound of tune-ups will be replaced with the echo of 400-horsepower hornets buzzing around the track.
"This is usually your last-minute race because everyone wants to have the nicest stuff, because it's the biggest race of the year," Brady Bacon said.
Broken Arrow native, Brady Bacon has been flying around the track at 90 mph since he was 14.
He says this five-day event -- with drivers from as far away as Australia -- is the Super Bowl of dirt track.
"If you win this, you beat everybody, so that's kinda the allure of this race," Bacon said.
Of the 292 drivers here in Green Country this week, about 250 are from out of state, and with four to five people per car, plus friends and family, that's roughly a $15 million impact on the local economy.
"You've got wing sprint car drivers, you've got late model drivers, you've got NASCAR drivers," Indiana driver Jerry Coons said. "Being a dirt track, it changes from event to event, night to night."
His team is among those filling up restaurants and hotels, not just in Tulsa, but all across Oklahoma.
He's also chasing his first Golden Driller trophy and the $10,000 top prize.
"That check isn't what they're going for, they're going for the prestige; they're going for the bragging rights," announcer Bryan Hulbert said.
Since its start in 1987, the event has grown from humble beginnings with hardly any spectators, to sold-out crowds.
This year only general admission tickets are available, but that gets you in the pit with drivers, and allows you to stand along the back stretch of the track.
"The atmosphere is just as much a part of the event as racing itself," Hulbert said.
Practice begins on Monday, and then 10 heats will run each night Tuesday-Saturday. The tough-to-beat Swindell father and son team return to the dirt course.
Kevin Swindell is the reigning champion of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals hoping for his fifth Golden Driller in as many years. Father Sammy Swindell is already a five-time champ.
"After you come for the first time, you won't miss another one," Hulbert said.