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TRACY HINES NIPS CORY KRUSEMAN FOR $12,500 AT OíREILLY CHILI BOWL.

THE USAC/CRA SEASON KICKS OFF AT MANZY IN JUST TWO WEEKS.

One of the most amazing ďmust seeĒ events in dirt track racing happened this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some 15,000 fans stormed the Tulsa Expo for four days to see 250 drivers put on some amazing charges on the small indoor dirt track. This annual affair could easily be called the king of all midget events. This race showcases the finest sprint car and midget drivers in the land. This year Tracy Hines won his first Chili Bowl and held off two time winner Cory Kruseman at the flag in the 50 lap main event. It should be all good for the 19th annual edition, but under the silver lining there are always cracks. A near record of turnovers was over 40 for the event with most pretty minor.

The pics for the Chili Bowl took a while, but heres what I got Click here.

Over the four days of racing, it should be noted that there were no passes for the win in any of the four A mains. Still the action was exciting throughout the many preliminary events that led up to the 50 lap main on Saturday, and only a tacky track could have changed things. The track dirt that lives outside on the fairgrounds the rest of the year seems to be tired. All four winners ran to the checkered on a smooth slick surface for a total of 125 laps, and that was good if your favorite driver won. Also, it never helps a drying track when they run the two-seater periodically, even though it was for charity. The dry track late in the races made it difficult for such stars as Steve Kinser, Kasey Kahne, Jay Drake, Damion Gardner, Levi Jones, Rip Williams, and many more champions to make the main event, and these did not.

The event was run, exceptionally well like normal, with the many people it takes to run an event of this magnitude organized. The track was reworked many times, quickly and efficiently, but the heavy tracks of years gone by were not evident this year and it showed. There were many different lines utilized thru the four nights, but generally drivers had to take chances and make mad dashes to move up thru the pack. Many did exceptionally well, putting on some scintillating races, but when a wheel moves out on youÖÖ. Oh well.

The event itself is like no other with all the stars and top cars attending from everywhere, including Australia. Inside one building you have a mere 250 race cars and all the crews plus the adoring fans streaming thru. The facility has a closed circuit TV system that included two huge screens easily seen by anyone nearby, plus many more located around out side the track itself in the upstairs bars and walkways. You donít need to leave the premises except for sleep, so unique doesnít quite describe it. The many trade show values included sunglasses, t-shirts, die cast cars, hats, photos, racing memorabilia, plus race car parts and drivers suits and helmets and much more. It was packed every day as the throng of people moved around to get their shopping done. The stands were packed and additionally, money was raised for both the Jack Miller recovery fund and a local childrenís benefit. If you havenít been to the Chili Bowl, you have really missed out.

The four nights had suspense, but each day was different. Josh Ford ran the extreme bottom line to win the opening night and later commented ďI knew if I stayed on the bottom, no one could pass meĒ. That was very true as he never moved up and Jon Stanbrough and a host of others couldnít get anywhere on the top line. Tracy Hines did pretty much the same thing the next night but had a different line as he led the entire 25 laps. Cory Kruseman stormed from the back to win his heat, then never missed a beat in winning the feature from the pole on Friday. Saturday had 21 feature races and it was a long day. Tracy Hines won his first Chili Bowl by a nose and kept the Kruser from winning back to back Chili Bowl titles.

Not everyone had a good time as rookies and veterans alike had their problems. Take Kevin Doty for one. He had no luck getting crashed out on his qualifying night and started in the first J main where he moved forward by winning that, then running 3rd in the I main, and then won the H main from the back, but had his problems again in the G main where he was out of the transfer and done. He wasnít alone as running at the chili bowl is somewhat 25% driver and 75% luck, in my opinion. There were plenty of stories like this one. Leroy VanConnett came out of a 20 year plus retirement, only to break an arm in an ugly crash. Bubba the Lovesponge (donít ask as I donít know) crashed on his qualifying night, but was able to make it back on Saturday. Tony Stewart had some luck until Saturday when a skirmish ended his night early. Several drivers impressed me with their moves, but didnít necessarily score well. Among them were Jerome Rodela, Kevin Doty, Ric Forbes, Brett Hearn, PJ Jones, Michael Pickens, Danny Stratton, Randy Pankratz in her Focus powered machine, Glenn Carson because he had a Wagtimes sticker on his car, Ray Bull, Bryan Gerster, Mike Spencer, Casey Shuman, Bugs Norbury, and maybe a few more. No matter how fast you are, if things donít go right, you donít go right!

It was a tiring 4 days for this Wag as I had a head cold when I lifted off in Ontario and no voice whatsoever from the moment I stepped off the plane in T-town. So what did I do during the important parts of communication all week? You donít want to hear it as it was not a fun thing trying to visit the many who stopped me along the way. I was so worn out after 20 races on Saturday, and with just the big feature to go, that I actually passed on it to get some rest because I knew what was going to happen. I had already picked a 50 lap winner with the previous three days as a template, and I was not surprised when it was over. If you havenít been to this one, get ready for the 20th anniversary next January.

The 2005 USAC/CRA schedule is almost ready and I hear the computer about ready to spit it out. Look for it very soon. I am staying in Missouri for a few days to visit with family before coming home to the rain.

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