Chili Bowl 2001: Jay Drake Does It All In Chili Bowl Contest
The 25th annual Chili Bowl Nationals will be held Jan. 11-15 at the QuickTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway.
In celebration of the Silver Anniversary of this prestigious indoor midget race, www.nationalspeedsportnews.com will be publishing the race reports that appeared in the pages of National Speed Sport News for the first 24 runnings of the event.
Beginning with the inaugural event in 1987, race recaps will be posted on a daily basis from Dec. 18 through Jan. 10.
Uses Attrition For Come-From-Behind Win
By DAVE ARGABRIGHT
TULSA, Okla. – Jay Drake waited patiently on a changing track surface Saturday night to score a come-from-behind victory in the 15th-annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
It was Drake’s first Chili Bowl title, worth $10,000.
Drake, starting on the front row alongside Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Sammy Swindell, looked to be one of the favorites after an impressive triumph in Thursday’s preliminary feature. But as the green flag waved, Drake clearly did not have a strong early-race setup.
The quarter-mile dirt track had been extensively reworked prior to the feature event, after becoming very slick in earlier preliminary races. But the track officials created a tacky surface that seemed to surprise most competitors.
“They tricked us on the track,” admitted Drake later. “We thought it would turn out a lot slicker. I was tight early with a big push.”
Two laps into the race, young Aaron Fike drove past Drake to take the lead. Driving the Lehman Motorsports entry, Fike was impressive as he began to motor away from the field.
The race was slowed by several cautions, including a double flip involving the cars of Dave Darland and Jason Leffler. Both were unhurt but out of the race.
Danny Lasoski, who started 15th, was on the move in the Hamm/Eagle Motorsports entry, moving into fourth when Tony Elliott slid high on the 19th circuit.
At the halfway point Drake began to close on Fike, and on lap 27 Drake swept into the lead as they exited turn two. At that point it was obvious the track surface had changed to suit Drake’s setup well.
Fike stayed on the cushion, and on lap 42 Swindell moved past to take second. A four-car duel thrilled fans during the final 10 laps including Swindell, Fike, Lasoski and Keith Rauch, while Drake put some distance between his car and the pack.
On the final lap Lasoski used the high groove to snare second by inches at the stripe from Swindell, with Fike and Rauch right behind. The second five consisted of Paul McMahan, Kevin Doty, Ted Hines, Matt Westfall and Shane Cottle.
“Keith Kunz is the best in the business,” praised Drake of his mechanic and car owner. “I don’t ever want to go racing without him again.”
Drake was asked if he was concerned with Fike’s early strength.
“Yeah, he was going good,” he admitted. “He blew me off at the start, and then it looked like he was going to drive away. But we were lucky because the track eventually blew off, and then our setup came to us.”
One of the first to greet Drake after the victory was longtime friend John Godfrey, founder and former owner of Stealth Chassis. Godfrey was seriously injured in an automobile accident in late November that took the life of his wife Dana.
“I want to dedicate this win to Dana Godfrey,” Drake said later in the interview room. “She and John helped me down through the years, and I wish she could have been here to see this. I think she’d be as happy for me as anybody.”
Lasoski said he was getting hand signals from his friend Tony Stewart during the race, but he struggled to interpret them.
“He was giving me signals, but I didn’t know what he meant,” laughed Lasoski. “I just raced as hard as I could, starting back like that, that’s all you can do.
“I had no idea I was second. I had raced Sammy for 10 laps, probably, and we were just racing hard.”
Swindell said motor problems proved to be his undoing.
“I was having a little problem, I couldn’t get the car to take off off the corner,” he admitted. Then he smiled.
“I guess I shouldn’t have given them so much room,” referring to Lasoski’s last-lap pass.
“But we had a good weekend,” Swindell said. “It’s fun to come here, and I’ve been blessed to be able to sit in [this interview room] so many times. We’ve won it, and finished second and third, lots of times. I like coming here a lot.”
Feature (50 laps):
- Jay Drake;
- Danny Lasoski;
- Sammy Swindell;
- Aaron Fike;
- Keith Rauch;
- Paul McMahan;
- Kevin Doty;
- Ted Hines;
- Matt Westfall;
- Shane Cottle;
- Steve Knepper;
- Randy Koch;
- Wayne Chinn;
- Chad Farmer;
- Michael Lang;
- Travis Miniea;
- Barry Reed;
- J.J. Yeley;
- Donnie Beechler;
- Tony Elliott;
- Rich Camfield;
- Kasey Kahne;
- Jerry Coons, Jr.;
- Dave Darland;
- Jason Leffler.
Thursday Night Preliminary: Jay Drake
Friday Night Preliminary: Sammy Swindell