It's Chili Bowl Time!
The 2018 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire was an amazing show as always!
For Christmas in 2017, I was fortunate enough to get a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. We did allot of photography in Graphic Design class at Gordon Cooper, and I wanted to get a DSLR for myself, so I can practice photography while I'm traveling, or at races, to master the craft.
The week before, we ordered an extra telephoto lens for far-off shots, as well as spare batteries, and a camera bag for the event.
Because of school, I have personally never been able to go for all 5 nights. Tickets are only sold for all five nights at once most of the time, so we usually just buy pit passes at the gate when we get there on Saturday. Sometime when I am out of school, and have some spare time on my hands, going to the Chili Bowl for all 6 nights is definitely toward the top of my bucket list. (Starting in 2019, there will be an extra night on Monday added to the event.)
Tons of big names across the motorsports world all come to this one building in Tulsa Oklahoma to face off for the chance at scoring a Golden Driller trophy to add to their collection of accomplishments.
It is so cool seeing NASCAR Drivers, USAC Champions, World Of Outlaws tour competitors, and ASCS racers all come to one building, right here in our home state! Kyle Larson, Daryn Pittman, Justin Allgier, Holly Shelton, Rico Abreu, Spenser Bayston, Troy Betts, Landon Simon, and many more!
The Chili Bowl produces some of the greatest racing (hands-down) that you just can't get anywhere else! The track is only a quarter-mile long, which makes the racing pretty tight. "It is like flying an airplane in a gymnasium." The cars only weigh around 700-800 pounds, which makes them incredibly maneuverable. It only takes two or three crew guys to push the car into, and out of the pits. Often times, two crew members will literally lift the entire car into the air, while another crew member changes the tires! The horsepower to weight ratio is better than that of a Formula one car! The cars have so much power, that the drivers can use too much throttle on corner exit sometimes, and perform a front wheel-stand (wheelie) down the straightaway! I witnessed several times, a car holding a wheelie all the way down the straightaway, and landing the front tires back on the ground just in time to turn into the next corner! It is hard to believe the talent, and fortitude that these drivers have. The key to dirt racing, is to slide the rear tires of the car, almost all the way around the track. Drivers get bumped, and banged all over the track by other cars during races, as well as barely "kissing" the wall on occasion, wheel-stands, and they keep digging into the next corner like nothing happened. Ordinary every-day drivers couldn't handle that kind of pressure, that's for sure!
When drivers get tapped from behind entering a corner, the car slides up the track, and appears to be completely out of control; but somehow, the driver is able to correct, and keep digging into the next corner, trying to get that position back!
As the great Richard Petty said, "On a super-speedway, you see who's got the best engine, on a short-track, you see who's got the best chassis, on a dirt track, you see who's got the best driver." You can see the talent of a racer instantly within the first few laps of action.
This race the very last broadcast for long-time racing journalist, Dave Despain. Dave Despain is known for hosting "Wind Tunnel", as well as "The Dave Despain Show". The Dave Despain show was an hour long talk-show about anything and everything, motorsports. Back when the Speed Channel was still on (prior to the switch to Fox Sports 1), I remember watching the Dave Despain show on occasion when I was younger. He always had a way of explaining the ins and outs of racing, that still makes your heart race to this day.
Dave announced that after the 2018 Chili Bowl Broadcast with MAVTV, he would officially retire from broadcasting. It was so cool to be able to say that I was there at Dave Despain's last broadcasted event. In honor of Dave, the Chili Bowl officials decided to let him be the Grand Marshal for the 32nd annual running of the event.
After they got down to the D-Main Feature Race, there were only a handful of races to go until they got to the A-Main; the finals.
How they determine who starts up front in the finals, is through a "Pole Dash". Two cars at a time race against each other in 3 lap "dash" races. The winner moves on, and faces off against the next competitor, while the loser starts wherever they were at. Example: if two cars were racing in a pole-dash for 12th place, the loser would start 12th, and the winner would face off against someone for 11th afterwards. If they win again, then they face off for 10th place, and so on. The winner from the last dash gets to pick the lane that they start in for the next pole-dash.
Some of the wildest moments of the day, happen during the pole dash races. When it's just you, and one other driver, the spotlight is on just those two cars; Mono-e-mono. The drivers give it all they've got in the pole dash, because it is a go-big-or-go-home kind of vibe during the dash. "Go-big-or-go-home", makes for a wild show to watch. This is where talent really shows.
Many of my best shots were taken during the pole dash races. These cars do beautiful things when they are being pushed to their limits; Perfect timing to capture some epic photos. My personal favorite photo of the whole night, was taken during the Rico Abreu vs Justin Grant Pole Dash race for the 4th starting spot in the A-Main. Rico and Grant both were riding the "bump" on the inside of the racetrack, giving it everything they've got. Right as one of the media photographers were shooting Rico's car, I captured the flash from their camera in perfect timing, with that flash shining on Rico's number 97 machine.
The anticipation rose higher and higher as they got closer to racing for first place. When they got to the top 5, the pressure was really on. Kyle Larson was eliminating cars one by one. He won at least 3 or 4 straight times!
The final pair was Kyle Larson vs Christopher Bell battling it out for 1st place starting spot in the A. Everyone got out their phones, and started filming; they could feel the tension in the air. Something was going to happen. They were both going at it, and not leaving an inch of racetrack on the table.
Bell later said in his post-race interview that he slid up the track in turn 3, and tried to gain that ground back on Kyle coming into turn one on the final lap. Bell over-drove the corner entry, and spun out in front of Larson with half a lap to go. Kyle was able to cut down to the inside of the track, race by, and win the pole dash for the 32nd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.
The crowd certainly got a show to watch that night, that's for sure; and the A-Main hadn't even started!
After Driver Introductions, it was finally time for the biggest race of the whole week; the race to see who takes home the Golden Driller.
It seemed like an eternity waiting for the big show to start. They gave the drivers and crews a few minutes to prep their cars, and do any last minute adjustments prior to starting the finals.
The crowd got quiet very suddenly, as Bryan Hulbert (the announcer for the event) yelled his famously known words over the speakers during the pace laps to pump up the fans; "Before we start the A-Main, we have just one more question .. Fans, are you ready for the 32nd running of the Lucas Oil Chi-li Bo-wl Na-tion-al-s!?" The crowd went wild as the pace truck cut into the infield, and the cars got lined up 2-by-2 for the start. You could hear Bryan saying "It's time to hit your feet, it's time to make some noise.. This is what you saved your lunch money for! This is, The Lucas Oil, Chili Bowl!!!" The crowd got the loudest that they had gotten the entire night as Terry Mattox (the flagman) ran alongside the track, and waved the green flag in the air. That 01 car of Kyle Larson got an amazing start, leaping ahead of everyone into turn 1 for the first time.
Kyle would lead most of the way early, just like he has so many times prior to that during the Chili Bowl. Kyle Larson's dad was the car owner of the 01 that Kyle raced that night. Chili Bowl teams are always pushing the car, the motor, and everything that they possibly can, to the absolute limit, in order to have just the slightest edge over the competition. As history played out, they had pushed their luck just a tad too hard. As Kyle was leading the race, white smoke started spewing out of the pipes of the 01. Christopher Bell quickly caught him in less than a lap, and blew right past Larson as if Larson were standing still, as the 01 ducked into the infield of the track; done for the day. Such a heartbreaker moment for Kyle. Even Christopher Bell said after the race, that he wishes they could have "Raced it out", and put on a show for the fans.
After 55 laps of racing, there is only room for one man to come out on top. In 2018, that man was Christopher Bell from Norman, Oklahoma!
Big congrats to the Oklahoma native for claiming his second straight Chili Bowl Golden Driller trophy!
Christopher Bell is quickly rising in popularity in the motorsports world. After joining KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship, as well as the USAC (United States Auto Club) Championship.
Christopher Bell is a development driver for TRD (Toyota Racing Development), and something tells me, that we are definitely going to see him competing in the NASCAR Cup Series someday.
I personally had a blast at the Chili Bowl; I can hardly wait for Daytona in February!
Copyright Clause: All photos in this blog post were taken by Joey Perry.