While most drivers on the Super DIRTcar Series are taking time off before rising this February to race again at the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park (FL), Larry Wight is taking the time to prepare for another one of the great winter racing events. Wight has entered the 31st running of the Chili Bow Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma and will be racing for a Golden Driller in January.
Thankfully for Wight and the Heffner Racing Enterprises team headed by crew chief Sean Michaels, experience is something that the team is bringing to the table for 2017.
“This will be my second one, definitely looking forward to going back. Last year we had a blast,” Wight told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It was just due to me lacking experience in the car itself, knowing what changes to make.
“We were good out of the gate but fell behind as the track went away, trying to keep the car hooked up. It was just a real big learning curve. We tried to get some seat time at Susquehanna or Big Diamond when they had the races, but we just had too many conflicts with our racing to make it down there.”
Wight also comes back with many lessons that he learned from one of the legends of the dirt, 2006 Chili Bowl champ Tim McCreadie, who got his career started racing the Big-Block Modifieds of New York.
“Going out there last year with Tim McCreadie, he pretty much took me under his wing and tried to help me out as best he could with the dos and don’ts,” McCreadie explained. “His past experience helped with trying to get me up to speed as fast as he could and it was a huge help watching him and knowing his driving style after racing with him over the years. I tried to use that as best we could.”
Wight, who is coming off a championship season at Fulton Speedway (NY), is going into the Chili Bowl with a fresh new Dirt Midget. It’s a race car that has been fine-tuned for the indoor quarter-mile at the Tulsa Expo Center.
“This year Sean and Mike (Heffner) ended up building me a brand new car that’s all light weight, specifically for the Chili Bowl. We haven’t put it on the scales yet but they think they got off probably 90 to 100 pounds.”
While Wight is big on the Big-Block Modifieds, including its headlining annual event Super DIRT Week, Wight admits the Chili Bowl is on a level of its own.
“As much as I love Super DIRT Week I’d say that this probably blows it right out of the water. The amount of people, the amount of drivers and caliber of drivers, it doesn’t matter if they run asphalt, drag racers, ovals, road course, there’s somebody from just about every form of racing that show up there to show what they can bring to the table.”
Wight lives on the dirt when he is racing, but it is a whole different game when you tackle it in a Midget.
“Midgets are a handful compared to a Big-Block,” he explained. “Big-Blocks you drive like a Late Model now, trying to keep the front end in front of us and not drive with the rear end like we’re accustomed to over the last ten years. With a Midget, it’s like a 1980s Modified. It kind of gets our heads turning to maybe one day build our own Chili Bowl car that’s more towards a Modified.”
While he lacks time in a Midget, Wight does have experience on tracks with a similar slick surface like the Chili Bow is known for.
“We run on the slippery, we’re more accustomed to it and that gives guys like myself, Tim McCreadie and guys from the Northeast, they kind of have that little bit of an advantage when it comes to the super slick black tracks,” Wight commented. “A lot of the California and Southern guys that run Sprint cars are really used to hammering down. They’re good in qualifying, but you see that the slick track guys show up and really excel in the last 20 laps of the race.”
With experience on all fronts heading into January, Wight’s goal of making it to the Saturday A-Main through weekday qualifiers may be bold but achievable.
“After last year the expectation is to at least get another heat win. That really helped get the momentum going and break the ice for us. It helped prove to myself and my team that we got a shot of getting into this thing. We just need to make the right adjustments and get it so after we run the heat we can get more points in the races for the A-main. Once we’re in the A-Main we got to finish in the top three to qualify for the A-Main Saturday to avoid all the B’s to the O’s. It’s definitely easier to do less racing compared to Super DIRT, where if you got to run an A-Main it’s not a big deal. If you get stuck in like an O-Main, it’s a long way to make it.”
Speed51.com will be at the Chili Bowl providing behind-the-scenes photos and information. A pay-per-view broadcast of the event can be viewed on RacinBoys.com.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos