Chili Bowl Party Winds Down In Tulsa After Action-Packed Weekend

Sunday, January 18th 2015, 9:35 pm
By: News On 6

When you step into the River Spirit Expo Center and see the overflow crowd, full of dogs, cheese heads, crazy fans and Mardi Gras beads, you know you're at a party. It's a racing party -- the Chili Bowl, the Super Bowl of midget car racing.

This year there were over 330 entries, the most ever for a growing event.

"It's the sheer amount of fans and the fact that people buy pit passes just to watch the screen even when they can sit at home," Kevin Swindell said.

"For it to be one of the biggest races of the year, one of the biggest races in the world, for that matter, to be right here in Tulsa, is just a special night to be part of,” racer and Owasso native Daryn Pittman said.

Sunday night belonged to a crowd favorite. Rico Abreu took the lead midway through the race, fought through tough challenges from former champions Sammy and Kevin Swindell and got the checkered flag and won the Golden Driller.

"You come into this building with over 300 race cars and, you know, 30,000 people,” Rico Abreu said. “I don't how many people they fit in here, but it was damn near a lot."

1/18/2015 Related Story:Rico Abreu Takes The Golden Driller In 29th Annual Tulsa Chili Bowl

Every year attracts NASCAR drivers like Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kenny Wallace, and this year even had Stewart tending to the dirt track. It featured crowd favorites and even racing royalty like Roger Penske, who served as the Grand Marshal.

"The fans are right down at the track they feel the dirt coming up in their faces, they see the drivers moving their hands, they can see the guys bumping the wheels,” Roger Penske said. “This is just amazing."

Every minor detail is important in this race, especially for local racers. Like the local guy Pittman, who qualified for the 'A' main event.

"The fan base I've built here in unreal,” Abreu said. “You know, I never thought it would be this big and then the chanting. It's cool to win this thing, and it's cool to think that your name will be on this list forever," Abreu said.

Abreu said after his win that determination can go a long way toward finding success. And the 4-foot-4, 95-pound man finally found success in the biggest race of them all.